Saturday, November 04, 2017

Happy Birthday to Playwright Jon Robin Baitz

Jon Robin Baitz was born today, November 4, in 1961.  He is a playwright, screenwriter, television producer, and occasional actor. He is best known as the creator and writer of the television shows Brothers & Sisters and The Slap.

After graduation from high school, Baitz did not attend college, instead he worked as a bookstore clerk and assistant to two producers, and the experiences became the basis for his first play, a one-acter entitled Mizlansky/Zilinsky. He drew on his own background for his first two-act play, The Film Society, about the staff of a prep school in South Africa. Its 1987 success in Los Angeles led to an Off-Broadway production with Nathan Lane in 1988, which earned him a Drama Desk Award nomination for Outstanding New Play.

This was followed by The Substance of Fire in 1991 with Ron Rifkin and Sarah Jessica Parker and The End of the Day Off-Broadway at Playwrights Horizons in 1992, starring Roger Rees.

Baitz wrote and directed the two-character play Three Hotels, based on his parents, for a presentation on PBS's "American Playhouse", in March 1991. He then reworked the material for a stage play, earning a Drama Desk Award nomination for Outstanding New Play.

In 1993, he co-scripted (with Howard A. Rodman) The Frightening Frammis, which was directed by Tom Cruise and aired as an episode of the Showtime anthology series Fallen Angels. Two years later, Henry Jaglom cast him as a gay playwright who achieves success at an early age - a character inspired by Baitz himself - in the film Last Summer in the Hamptons. In 1996 he appeared as Michelle Pfeiffer's business associate in the film comedy One Fine Day.

His semi-autobiographical play A Fair Country was presented Off-Broadway at the Lincoln Center Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater in 1996. The play was one of the three finalists for the 1996 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

Subsequent stage works include Mizlansky/Zilinsky or "Schmucks," a revised version of Mizlansky/Zilinsky, starring Nathan Lane, and directed by Baitz's then-partner Joe Mantello (1998), a new adaptation of Henrik Ibsen's Hedda Gabler in 2000, Ten Unknowns in 2001 starring Donald Sutherland and Julianna Margulies, and The Paris Letter in 2005 with Ron Rifkin and John Glover. His screenplays include the adaptation of his own Substance of Fire (1996), and People I Know (2002), which starred Al Pacino.

Baitz's occasional work writing for such television series as The West Wing and Alias led to his position as creator and executive producer of the television drama Brothers & Sisters, which premiered in September 2006 and ran for five seasons, ending in May 2011.

His play Other Desert Cities opened Off-Broadway on January 13, 2011, starring Stockard Channing and Linda Lavin,
The production transferred to Broadway and received five nominations for the 2012 Tony Awards, including for Best Play, Best Actress in a Play for Stockard Channing, and Best Featured Actress in a Play for Judith Light, which she won.

Baitz wrote the screenplay for the 2015 film Stonewall. That year he also created and wrote the television mini-series, The Slap, starring Zachary Quinto.

His latest project is currently being produced at Washington DC's Mosaic Theater, titled, Vicuña & The American Epilogue. This Trump-inspired satire stars John de Lancie (Star Trek, Breaking Bad) as a real estate mogul about to enter the final presidential debate of the 2016 campaign. It is followed by a haunting post-script set 12 years into the future assessing the state of the Nation and all that's been wrought in the election's wake.


No comments: