Chris Jones (drama critic)

Christopher Nigel Jones (born September 10, 1963) is a British-American journalist and academic. He is the chief theater critic and Sunday culture columnist of the Chicago Tribune.[1] Since 2014, he has also served as director of the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center’s National Critics Institute.[2] Jones has appeared on the news broadcast of CBS-2 Chicago as a weekly theater critic.[3] In 2018, he was additionally named Broadway theater critic for the Tribune related publication, the New York Daily News. In 2021 he was named Editorial Page Editor of the Tribune,[4] but he continues to review theater both in Chicago and New York.

Chris Jones
Personal details
Christopher Nigel Jones

(1963-09-10) September 10, 1963 (age 59)
Manchester, England, UK
EducationUniversity of Hull (BA)
Ohio State University (MA, PhD)
AwardsGeorge Jean Nathan Award

In 2001, Jones was featured in an article in American Theatre magazine about the 12 most influential theater critics in America.[5] In 2016, the New York Times cited Jones as an important reason that Broadway shows try-out in Chicago, noting the role his reviews have played in helping producers improve productions for New York runs.[6]

Early life and educationEdit

A native of Bury, England, Jones attended the United Kingdom’s Bury Grammar School and University of Hull, from which he graduated with honors in 1984 with a joint BA in Drama and English.[7] He moved to the United States to pursue his MA in Theatre at Ohio State University, which he received in 1986. He earned his PhD in 1989 with his dissertation Populism, the Mainstream Theatre, and the Plays of Willy Russell.[8]



From 1990-2000, Jones taught at Northern Illinois University, rising from assistant professor, to associate professor and then as professor and associate chair of the School of Theatre and Dance.[7] From 2000 to 2002, he served as associate dean of The Theatre School at DePaul University, where he remains an adjunct professor.[9] He left his tenured post in academe to join the Chicago Tribune full-time in 2002.

Theatre and cultural criticismEdit

Jones started his career as a critic in the 1980s by contributing film reviews, interviews, and reports for WCBE-FM in Columbus, Ohio, and also served as the long-time film critic for the Columbus Alive alternative weekly newspaper.[10] Beginning in the mid-1980s, he began writing for Variety and Daily Variety, developing a particular specialty in reviewing out-of-town tryouts of Broadway musicals, for which he became nationally known.[6][11][12] During this time, his arts criticism was also often published in the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times, the Washington Post, American Theatre magazine as well as other newspapers and magazines.[13] He is among the most prolific critics in the nation, reviewing about 200 Chicago shows a year and covering all the major Broadway openings.[14] In 2018, he also became Broadway theater critic for the Tribune Publishing owned New York Daily News.[15]

Jones has twice served on the jury of the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.[16][17] For some two decades, he has chaired the American Theatre Critics Association committee that annually recommends a theater for the Tony Award to an outstanding regional theatre.[18]


In 2015, Jones was a co-winner of the George Jean Nathan Award, the most prestigious award for drama criticism in the United States. Chosen annually by an interdisciplinary faculty committee headed by the English department chairs at Cornell, Princeton and Yale Universities, the Nathan Award honors scholarly and journalistic dramatic criticism. In making the award, the committee highlighted Jones' review of The Project(s), an American Theater Company docudrama exploring the lives of Chicago public housing residents.[18][19]

His other honors include the Gold Medallion from the American College Theatre Festival, for his work with young theater critics.[12] He has received five Peter Lisagor Awards from the Chicago Headline Club for arts criticism and arts and entertainment reporting[20] and the Illinois Theatre Association’s 2012 Award of Honor.[21][22] In 2013 he was awarded the James Friend Memorial Award for Literary and Dramatic Criticism by the Society of Midland Authors for his “exemplary contribution to theater, culture and the arts.”[23] In 2016, he was the Maegene Nelson Visiting Scholar at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas.

Personal lifeEdit

Jones is married to Gillian Darlow, who is the chief executive officer of the Polk Bros. Foundation in Chicago. Together they have two sons.[24]


Telling the story of Chicago’s theatrical history, his book, Bigger, Brighter, Louder: 150 Years of Chicago Theater (published in 2013 by the University of Chicago Press, ISBN 9780226059266) showcases the plays, writers and productions that went on to shape the country’s theatrical landscape.[25] A tryout of A Raisin in the Sun with then unknown Sidney Poitier, a “lost” interview with Tennessee Williams, the first performance of the musical Grease, and the biting wit of Claudia Cassidy and Peregrine Pickle are collected among dozens of reviews, each featuring commentary by Jones that puts the excerpt into cultural and historical context.

In 2015, Jones wrote the introduction to How to Write About Theater, a book published by Methuen. (ISBN 9781472520548)

Jones authored, Rise Up! Broadway and American Society from 'Angels in America’ to ‘Hamilton’, a book published by Bloomsbury in 2018. (ISBN 9781350071933)


  1. ^ "About Tribune theater critic Chris Jones". tribunedigital-chicagotribune. 24 October 2013. Retrieved 22 January 2016.
  2. ^ "Eugene O'Neill Theater Center :: Eugene O'Neill Theater Center Announces Chris Jones to Lead National Critics Institute". Archived from the original on 16 February 2016. Retrieved 22 January 2016.
  3. ^ "On Stage With Chris Jones". Retrieved 22 January 2016.
  4. ^ "Chicago Tribune theater critic Chris Jones named editorial page editor". Retrieved 9 November 2022.
  5. ^ "American Theatre – November 2011". Archived from the original on 26 January 2016. Retrieved 22 January 2016.
  6. ^ a b Paulson, Michael (12 January 2016). "Before Broadway, Musicals Make a Detour to Test the Waters in Chicago". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 23 January 2016.
  7. ^ a b "Media & Entertainment - University of Hull". Archived from the original on 23 June 2016. Retrieved 23 January 2016.
  8. ^ Jones, Christopher Nigel (1 January 1989). Populism, the mainstream theatre, and the plays of Willy Russell (Thesis). Ohio State University.
  9. ^ "Chris Jones | Theatre Studies | Faculty & Staff | About | DePaul University". Retrieved 22 January 2016.
  10. ^ Tribune, Chicago. "Chris Jones". Retrieved 23 January 2016.
  11. ^ "Everyone's a Critic: Chris Jones on the Changing State of Journalism and Interacting With Readers". Playbill. Retrieved 23 January 2016.
  12. ^ a b "About Tribune theater critic Chris Jones". tribunedigital-chicagotribune. 24 October 2013. Retrieved 23 January 2016.
  13. ^ "Theater Loop - Chicago Tribune". Retrieved 22 January 2016.
  14. ^ "A Trib theater critic's two cities". Chicago Reader. 28 November 2012. Retrieved 23 January 2016.
  15. ^ BWW News Desk. "Theatre Critic Chris Jones Will Now Contribute to Both Chicago Tribune and NY Daily News". Retrieved 4 June 2020.
  16. ^ "2006 Pulitzer Prize – Drama". Retrieved 31 March 2022.
  17. ^ "2011 Pulitzer Prize – Drama". Retrieved 31 March 2022.
  18. ^ a b "American Theatre Critics Association - ATCA Home - Proposals due for Regional Theater Tony". Retrieved 22 January 2016.
  19. ^ "Two drama critics receive 2015 George Jean Nathan Award | Cornell Chronicle". Retrieved 22 January 2016.
  20. ^ Club, The Chicago Headline. "Chicago Headline Club Honors City's Best Journalism In Peter Lisagor Awards". Retrieved 23 January 2016.
  21. ^ The Chicago Headline Club. "Chicago Headline Club Honors City's Best Journalism In Peter Lisagor Awards". Retrieved 22 January 2016.
  22. ^ "Illinois Theatre Association > ITA's Annual Awards of Excellence - Past Recipient". Retrieved 22 January 2016.
  23. ^ "Society of Midland Authors Prior Award Winners". Archived from the original on 28 April 2017. Retrieved 22 January 2016.
  24. ^ "Chris Jones | Theatre Studies | Faculty & Staff | About | DePaul University". Retrieved 23 January 2016.
  25. ^ Suskin, Steven (30 March 2014). "THE BOOK SHELF: Chris Jones on Chicago Theatre, in "Bigger, Brighter, Louder"". Playbill. Retrieved 23 January 2016.