Jones is a playwright and essayist whose principal work has explored alternatives to representational, narrative dramatic forms. Two early plays, Nightcoil (1978) and 70 Scenes Of Halloween (1980), introduced techniques—respectively, simultaneous action; and discontinuous action and stylistic variation—that he has since reworked and redeployed in various ways.
From 1984 to 1990, Jones completely abandoned conventional authorship in favor of appropriated texts and collage assembly, culminating in The Crazy Plays, a series of tiny, interrelated plays with repeated dialog, loops, and interchangeable characters. Three subsequent plays were investigations of puppetry, in which a principal character was represented by a stuffed animal, manipulated by an onstage actor.
His most recent work, A Letter From Omdurman (2012), was an exercise in potted history: a personal response to the photographs of Abu Ghraib in which the (ghost-written, deeply bogus) reminiscences of Wyatt Earp were tweaked to place him in the culminating battle of the Anglo-Sudan war of 1899, where he toppled the regime of the Mahdi, founder of the first modern fundamentalist Muslim state—the battle itself described in overwrought prose by a young lieutenant of the 21st Lancers named Winston Churchill, in his first bestseller.
Jones also wrote the book and lyrics for a musical with Jonathan Larson, JP Morgan Saves The Nation (1995), that was performed on the steps of Federal Hall.
He has variously been manager of The Wooster Group, Richard Foreman and John Jesurun (at Performing ArtServices); Executive Director of Real Art Ways (Hartford) and President of the Board of the Alliance of Resident Theatres/New York; taught playwriting at the Yale School of Drama; and from 2000 to 2022, co-curated of the OBIE-winning Little Theatre series at Dixon Place.
He has received NEA, NYSCA and NYFA Playwriting fellowships, Bay Area Playwrights Festival and Thomas J. Watson Foundation fellowships, and support from the NEA Opera/Music Theatre & InterArts Programs, The Rockefeller Foundation, ArtMatters and the Peg Santvoord Foundation. He was a member of New Dramatists from 1980 to 1987, and a MacDowell colonist in 1991 and 2000.
NEW PLAYS BY
A LETTER FROM OMDURMAN
An assemblage of stories—some true, some invented—which interweave three historical periods: life in the contemporary United States; events leading up to the gunfight at the OK Corral (Tombstone, AZ), and the Anglo-Sudanese war which ended in the defeat of the Mahdi Army at the Battle of Omdurman (1898), described by Winston S. Churchill in his memoir, The River War.
THE PLAYER KING
My principal work has been devoted to explorations of alternatives to representational, narrative dramatic forms. Various plays have introduced techniques that include simultaneous action within scenes; discontinuous action between scenes, stylistic variation across scenes, the use of appropriated texts and collage assembly, repeated dialog, loops, and an equivalence of character as voice. My current work-in-progress, The Player King, is an attempt to expand on all these strategies.
It is a meditation on the end of life, on life remembered and on remembered lives, in the imminence of death. More than anything, it is a palimpsest: a play of resonance and pattern. It is, intentionally, explicitly, a work that aims at what Edward Said defined as the experience of late style “that involves a non-harmonious, non-serene tension, and above all, a sort of deliberately unproductive productiveness going against.....” And while I didn’t set out with these ideas in mind, Flaubert’s notion of un livre sur rien—a book about nothing—seem relevant: “What seems beautiful to me, what I should like to write, is a book about nothing, a book dependent on nothing external, which would be held together by the internal strength of its style, just as the earth, suspended in the void, depends on nothing external for its support; a book which would have almost no subject, or at least in which the subject would be almost invisible, if such a thing is possible.”