Friday, March 20, 2015

Spotlight on Signature Theater

by Chad Kinsman, Artistic & Management Coordinator

Signature Theatre Company was founded in 1991 by James Houghton. In its almost quarter-of-a-century run, Signature has developed into one of New York City’s leading non-profit, professional theaters. It has built its well-deserved reputation on two strong programs. The first is at the core of their artistic mission – their dedication to the living playwright. Every season is dedicated to exploring the work of a single writer, including revivals and New York or even world premieres. The playwright is also engaged in every aspect of the production process. By focusing on a single writer, Signature aims to create for their audiences “an intimate and immersive journey into the playwright’s singular vision.” Recent playwrights have included August Wilson, Horton Foote, and Tony Kushner. For the past year, Signature has been examining the work of Playhouse alumni A.R. Gurney, producing his plays The Wayside Motor Inn, What I Did Last Summer, and the world premiere of Love & Money, co-produced by the Playhouse.

In addition to offering playwrights a single season in residency, Signature also offers a five-year residency that gives a diverse community of writers the time and support to create their work, including grants, health care, a stipend to attend theater, and access to Signature’s resources and staff. This program goes far beyond the traditional model of three-day workshops and other new play development strategies, and Signature is proud to be a pioneer in this regard. Current five-year residences include some of the most exciting playwrights in their generation – Annie Baker, Branden Jacob-Jenkins, Will Eno, and Katori Hall to name a few.
In addition to their unique artistic mission, Signature has become well-known for maintaining a strong focus on keeping theater affordable. In 2005, Signature launched its Ticket Initiative, a subsidy program offering $25 tickets for every seat during every performance during a production’s initial run. The initiative is thanks to The Pershing Square Foundation, and donations from foundations, corporations, and individuals.

Now in the second decade of the 21st century, Signature continues to grow and flourish. In 2012, Signature moved into its new home, Pershing Square Signature Center. Located at 42nd Street and 10th Avenue, the new space houses three theaters of various sizes and layouts, and was designed by award-winning architect Frank Gehry. The new space has allowed Signature to offer eight to ten productions a year. In addition to the numerous Obie, Drama Desk, Lucille Lortel, and Outer Critics Circle awards garnered since 1991, Signature won the Tony Award for Outstanding Regional Theater in 2014.

Between Signature Theater and the Playhouse is over 100 years of producing exciting, vital theater for our communities. We are very excited to be working with this renowned theater on a new play by A.R. Gurney. The Playhouse run of Love & Money is July 21 through August 8, before it heads to Signature for its New York run. 

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