Daniel M. Jones, who served as Theatre UCF’s costume shop manager for more than 15 years, died over the weekend. He leaves behind a legacy of friendship, beautiful music and acclaimed work.
Jones’ work as a costume designer was celebrated by the national theatre community, receiving numerous commendations from the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival and Broadway World. He earned his Bachelor of Arts in theatre arts from Doane College in 1994 in Nebraska and went on to earn his MFA in costume design from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 2000. Prior to joining UCF’s School of Performing Arts, he served as the coordinator of theatre costumes and an adjunct lecturer at the University of Nebraska at Kearney.
Upon joining UCF’s School of Performing Arts in 2006, Jones established himself as an integral part of the Central Florida theatre community. Audiences have seen his designs onstage at UCF in Titanic, The Lion in Winter, Oklahoma!, The Drowsy Chaperone and West Side Story, among dozens of other mainstage and black box productions. Jones also designed costumes for local theaters such as the Garden Theatre and the Orlando Repertory Theatre, including productions of Hello Dolly!, Pippi Longstocking, and most recently The Teddy Bear’s Picnic, a play for the very young. He loved sparkling gowns and designed pageant gowns under the name “Glam by Dan.”
Jones also taught several classes in the theatre department: Stage Makeup, Costume Construction and Shakespeare to RuPaul: Drag in Entertainment. The latter, a popular course among Theatre UCF students, taught of the rich history of female impersonators, earning a feature in the Orlando Sentinel.
“I feel really lucky that I have a job that I’m passionate about,” Jones told the Sentinel at the time. “You sort of use the collective unconscious of the world to communicate things — through color, through text, through the way clothes fit — about who that person is and what they’re going to do.”
He was a fierce advocate for the LGBTQ+ community, with close connections to the Orlando Gay Chorus. He served multiple terms as the chorus’ president and, more recently, as secretary of its member council. In 2008, he cofounded a new ensemble for the chorus, Spectrum, and was selected as an honorary member of the group for his legacy of volunteering and leadership. In the aftermath of the Pulse tragedy, he sang at multiple outreach events, covering solos for other performers who were unable to attend.
Jones was also known for his passion for the local drag community and his knowledge of all things drag. He worked with local queens on their performances and costuming, some of whom were students in his classes, and performed in drag as the Orlando Gay Chorus’ Mrs. Claus one holiday season.
Jones will be remembered for his impact on the community — including the countless students that worked with him in the costume shop or performed onstage in his designs.
A celebration of life for Dan Jones will be held on the UCF campus on Sunday, Oct. 17, at 5:30 p.m. Reserve your seat or for those who are unable to attend in person, the celebration will stream at youtu.be/jmNF6oz8hzg.