Jon Robin Baitz is an American screenwriter, playwright, television producer, and occasional actor. He is currently a professor at Stony Brook Southampton and The New School, where he is Artistic Director of the BFA theater program.
Baitz was born to a Jewish family in Los Angeles, California. He is the son of Edward Baitz, an executive of the Carnation Company. He was raised in Brazil and South Africa before the family returned to California, where he attended Beverly Hills High School.
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. The cast starred Richard Jordan and Kate Nelligan. 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 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 (first at L.A.'s Geffen Playhouse with Annette Bening in 1999, then at Long Island's Bay Street Theater with Kate Burton in 2000, followed by a Broadway production with the same star the following year), Ten Unknowns (2001), starring Donald Sutherland and Julianna Margulies, and The Paris Letter (2005) with Ron Rifkin and John Glover. His screenplays include the adaptation of his own Substance of Fire (1996), with Tony Goldwyn and Timothy Hutton joining original cast members Rifkin and Parker, 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 ABC 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 at the Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater (Lincoln Center) in New York on January 13, 2011, starring Stockard Channing, Linda Lavin, Stacy Keach, Thomas Sadoski, and Elizabeth Marvel. The play was originally titled Love and Mercy. The production transferred to Broadway, and opened at the Booth Theatre on November 3, 2011, with Judith Light replacing Lavin and Rachel Griffiths replacing Marvel.
Baitz is Jewish and openly gay. From 1990 to 2002, he was the romantic partner of actor and director Joe Mantello.
- Baitz was the New School for Drama's artist in residence for the 2009-2010 school year.
- He was awarded the 1986 Drama Logue Award for Outstanding Direction and Adaptation for In Dreams Begin Responsibilities.
- His play, The Substance of Fire, at the Mark Taper Forum Theatre in Los Angeles, California was awarded the 1993 Drama Logue for Outstanding Production.
- He was nominated for the 1996 Pulitzer Prize for Drama for the play A Fair Country.
- He was awarded the 2005 Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Ted Schmitt Award for Outstanding New Play, The Paris Letter, at the Kirk Douglas Theatre in Los Angeles, California.
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