Jonathan Reynolds, the accomplished playwright, author, screenwriter, and champion of the arts at Denison, died October 27, 2021.
After graduating from Denison in 1965, Jonathan spent a year at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art before launching a career that included working as a producer for the David Frost and Dick Cavett television shows and authoring 10 Broadway plays. His works include Yanks 3 – Detroit 0, Top of the Seventh; Geniuses, which prompted the New York Times to note that “there is comic genius afoot at Playwrights’ Horizon, and his name is Jonathan Reynolds”; and Stonewall Jackson’s House, which was recommended for the 1997 Pulitzer Prize.
Jonathan also wrote five produced screenplays, including the acclaimed Micki and Maude. In 2000, he began a biweekly food column in the New York Times Magazine. Those columns inspired Dinner with Demons, the one-man show at the Second Stage Theater in which he cooked an entire meal on stage, and his 2008 memoir Wrestling with Gravy.
Reynolds shared his successes with Denison, where his philanthropic giving created the Jonathan Reynolds Endowed Chair in Theatre (Denison’s first endowed chair in the arts), the Jonathan Reynolds Playwright-in-Residence program, the Jonathan Reynolds Young Writers Workshop, and the William O. Brasmer Endowed Scholarship for Excellence in Theatre. Denison celebrated Reynolds with an Alumni Citation in 1985.
Mark Evans Bryan ’96, holder of the Reynolds Endowed Chair in Theatre, says “The Reynolds Playwright-in-Residence program is devoted to making connections between Denison students and dynamic artists who are established in their field; it makes space for genuine mentoring relationships which often have continued into our students’ professional lives. Jonathan’s attention and ongoing engagement with the program he imagined was tremendous, and we’ve all been very fortunate to have had our lives, as students and professors, enriched by his generosity and vision.”
Jonathan’s support for the Young Writers Workshop, says English professor and workshop director Margot Singer, has enabled almost a thousand young writers to take part in a life-changing writing program. “I can’t begin to express how proud I am of this program and of the many generations of high school students who have passed through it, nearly 100 of whom have gone on to earn Denison degrees. Every summer we are blown away by the energy, enthusiasm, generosity, and talent of these young writers, and by the magical way they bond in just one short week.”
“Jonathan built a life of impact and purpose,” says Denison President Adam Weinberg. “We are grateful his example will continue to inspire and support Denison students, faculty, and young writers in their aspirations.”
Jonathan is survived by his wife, Heidi Ettinger; sons, Edward and Frank Reynolds; stepsons, North, Nash, and Dodge Landesman; sister, Nancy Reynolds; and half-brother, Donald Reynolds Jr.; and grandchildren, Charlotte and Walter.