Jon Robin Baitz
Jon Robin "Robbie" Baitz
|Occupation||Playwright, screenwriter, television producer, actor|
|Other Desert Cities, The Substance of Fire, Brothers & Sisters, Three Hotels, A Fair Country|
|Partner(s)||Joe Mantello (1990–2002)|
Jon Robin Baitz (born November 4, 1961) is an American playwright, screenwriter and television producer. He is a two time Pulitzer Prize finalist, as well as a Guggenheim, American Academy of Arts and Letters, and National Endowment for the Arts Fellow.
Early life and education
Baitz was born to a Jewish family in Los Angeles, California, the son of Edward Baitz, an executive of the Carnation Company. Baitz was raised in Brazil and South Africa before the family returned to California, where he attended Beverly Hills High School. On speaking about the influence of his time growing up abroad on his life and work, Baitz states:
I think what happened was that I felt so foreign so often that I became very adept at observing. I learned a kind of short hand. Because you’re a foreigner, an alien really, you have to decode all of the customs and the manners, not just the language. So you begin to feel terribly detached which is not a good thing. And it had that effect upon my writing initially. You start this little dialogue with yourself about what things mean and then suddenly you’re 20-something-years-old and you’re continuing that dialogue on paper.
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.
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 Lincoln Center Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater in 1996. The play was one of the three finalists for the 1996 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. The nominating committee said of the play "Written with sharp, pointed dialogue, peopled by vivid characters and played against an international setting of Africa, Europe and Central America."
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.
From 2002 to 2005, Baitz had considerable success writing freelance scripts for The West Wing and Alias. In the case of The West Wing, his first draft was so polished that Sorkin himself shot the episode “pretty much word for word.” In the summer of 2005, that glimmer of first draft perfection led to his position as creator and executive producer of the ABC TV 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, opened at the Booth Theatre on November 3, 2011, with Judith Light replacing Lavin and Rachel Griffiths replacing Marvel.
In 2019, Baitz generated controversy when he became the first member of the WGA to defy the guild's directive that members fire their talent agents, amid ongoing negotiations with the Association of Talent Agents over the practice of packaging. Baitz defended his decision in a letter to the guild's leaders, stating that his agents at CAA had stuck by him during bad times, including both during, and after the 2007-2008 writers' strike.
Awards and recognition
Baitz has received a Rockefeller Foundation Award and a Drama Desk Award; he is a Guggenheim Fellow, and was a Pulitzer Prize finalist for "A Fair Country." In 1991, he won a Humanitas Award for the PBS-TV's "American Playhouse" version of "Three Hotels" which he also directed.
- The Film Society -- 1988
- The Substance of Fire -- 1992, 2014
- Three Hotels -- 1993, 1993 Drama Desk Award Outstanding New Play nominee
- A Fair Country -- 1996
- Mizlansky/Zilinsky or Schmucks -- 1998
- Hedda Gabler (adaptation) -- 2001
- Ten Unknowns -- 2001, 2001 Lucille Lortel Award nominee, Outstanding Play
- The Paris Letter -- 2005, 2006 Lucille Lortel Award nominee, Outstanding Play
- Other Desert Cities -- 2011
- Vicuña -- 2016
Film and television
- Three Hotels (American Playhouse) -- PBS, 1991
- Fallen Angels -- episode "The Frightening Frammis", Showtime, 1993
- Last Summer in the Hamptons -- 1995 (actor)
- One Fine Day -- 1996 (actor)
- The Substance of Fire -- 1996
- People I Know -- 2002
- The West Wing -- season 4 episode "The Long Goodbye", 2003
- Alias -- episode "In Dreams...", 2005
- Brothers & Sisters -- ABC television series, 2006
- The Slap -- NBC miniseries, 2014
- Stonewall -- 2015
- Jewish Chronicle: "Jon Robin Baitz: Playwright’s split personality does not disguise singular vision" By John Nathan March 24, 2014
- Isenberg, Barbara. "Theater; This Gofer Has Become a Definite Go-To Guy; With 'Mizlansky/ Zilinsky's' return, Jon Robin Baitz looks back at how far he's come.", Los Angeles Times, March 26, 2000. Accessed April 24, 2008. "A graduate of Beverly Hills High School, Baitz honed his craft not in college, which he did not attend, but rather at the now-defunct Padua Hills Playwrights' Festival."
- Gholson, Craig. "John Robin Baitz Interview" BOMB Magazine Winter, 1989. Retrieved May 22, 2013.
- Sullivan, Dan. "Stage Review : 'Film Society' Goes To The Head Of The Class" Los Angeles Times, January 24, 1987
- Sommer, Elyse. "A CurtainUp Review. The Film Society " curtainup.com, 1997, accessed November 26, 2015
- Rich, Frank. "Theater Review. Resisting the Vortex By Living a Life Of Books and Anger" New York Times, March 18, 1991
- Rich, Frank. "Review/Theater: The End of the Day; Baitz's Mockery of an Age of Money" New York Times, April 8, 1992
- "American Playhouse: 'Three Hotels' (TV)" paleycenter.org, accessed November 27, 2015
- "'A Fair Country' 1996" Archived 2015-11-27 at the Wayback Machine lortel.org, accessed November 26, 2015
- Fischer, Heinz-D. (ed.) Plays Chronicle of the Pulitzer Prizes for Drama: Discussions, Decisions and Documents, Walter de Gruyter, 2008, ISBN 3598441207, p. 27
- Gans, Andrew (2009-11-10). "Jon Robin Baitz Named New School's Artist-in-Residence". Backstage. Archived from the original on 2013-02-01. Retrieved 2009-09-22.
- Brantley, Ben. "Theater Review. Drowning in Domestic Denial in the Sands of Palm Springs" The New York Times, January 13, 2011
- Gans, Andrew. "Mantello Will Direct Baitz's Other Desert Cities Off-Broadway" Archived 2012-10-21 at the Wayback Machine playbill.com, June 4, 2010
- Schou, Solvej (2015-09-18). "Roland Emmerich's 'Stonewall' Finds Controversy". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2015-09-29.
- Littleton, Cynthia (2019-04-15). "Writer Jon Robin Baitz Defies WGA Order to Fire Agent, Slams Guild Leadership". Variety. Retrieved 2019-04-16.
- "Jon Robin Baitz". IMDb. Retrieved 2021-07-02.
- "History". Humanitas. Retrieved 2021-07-02.
- Stephen Gaghan (Fall 2003). "Jon Robin Baitz". BOMB Magazine. Archived from the original on 2010-01-02. Retrieved 2010-01-25.
- Angels in America: Millennium Approaches at the Internet Broadway Database
- Wicked at the Internet Broadway Database
- Weber, Bruce. "Theater. Couple of the Moment in New York Theater New York Times, October 30, 1994
- Marks, Peters. For Jon Robin Baitz, all politics is verbal" Washington Post, May 3, 2013
- Feldman, Adam. "Q & A With Joe Mantello" TimeOut New York, December 17, 2010
- "'The Film Society' 1988" Archived 2015-11-27 at the Wayback Machine lortel.org, accessed November 26, 2015
- "'The Substance of Fire' 1992" Archived 2015-09-01 at the Wayback Machine lortel.org, accessed November 26, 2015
- "'The Substance of Fire' 2014" Archived 2015-11-26 at the Wayback Machine lortel.org, accessed November 26, 2015
- "'Three Hotels' 1993" Archived 2015-11-27 at the Wayback Machine lortel.org, accessed November 26, 2015
- "Baitz Awards" ibdb.com, accessed November 26, 2015
- "'Mizlansky/Zilinsky or Schmucks' 1998" Archived 2015-11-27 at the Wayback Machine lortel.org, accessed November 26, 2015
- Hedda Gabler ibdb.com, accessed November 26, 2015
- "'Ten Unknown' 2001" Archived 2015-11-27 at the Wayback Machine lortel.org, accessed November 26, 2015
- "'The Paris Letter' 2005" Archived 2007-10-24 at the Wayback Machine lortel.org, accessed November 26, 2015
- "Vicuña". Center Theatre Group. Retrieved 2017-08-03.
- "1993", Variety and Daily Variety Television Reviews, 1993-1994, Taylor & Francis, 1996, ISBN 0824037979, p. cxiv
- Staff. "TV Review: ‘The Frightening Frammis’" Variety, September 3, 1993
- "'Last Summer in the Hamptons' Overview" tcm.com, accessed November 27, 2015
- "'One Fine Day' tcm.com, accessed November 27, 2015
- " 'The Substance of Fire' Overview" tcm.com, accessed November 27, 2015
- "'People I Know' Overview" tcm.com, accessed November 27, 2015
- "'The West Wing' The Long Goodbye (TV Episode 2003) - IMDb" IMDb, accessed August 17, 2018
- Buckley, Michael. "Stage To Screens: Jon Robin Baitz and Keith Nobbs Discuss Their TV Projects" Playbill, March 11, 2007
- Hetrick, Adam. "Tony Nominee Joins Jon Robin Baitz Family Miniseries on NBC" Playbill, October 8, 2014
- Viagas, Robert. "Jon Robin Baitz's Controversial 'Stonewall' Film Opens Friday – See Expanded New Trailer" Playbill, September 24, 2015