Backstage Pass with Lia Chang

Signature Theatre Company’s Founding Artistic Director James Houghton To Step Down After 2015-16 25th Anniversary Season

Leigh Silverman, James Houghton, David Henry Hwang and Beth Whitaker at the opening night party of Kung Fu at The Pershing Square Signature Center in New York on February 24, 2014. Photo by Lia Chang

Leigh Silverman, James Houghton, David Henry Hwang and Beth Whitaker at the opening night party of Kung Fu at The Pershing Square Signature Center in New York on February 24, 2014. Photo by Lia Chang

Signature Theatre Board Chairman Edward Norton and Board President Kate Roche Hope have announced that Founding Artistic Director James Houghton will step down next year at the end of the 2015-16 25th Anniversary Season. Signature has formed a search committee to lead a national search for its next Artistic Director, who it will welcome by July 1, 2016.

Bill Irwin and James Houghton at the 2013 Drama Desk Awards at Town Hall in New York on May 19, 2013. Photo by Lia Chang

Bill Irwin and James Houghton at the 2013 Drama Desk Awards at Town Hall in New York on May 19, 2013. Photo by Lia Chang

Houghton was recently diagnosed with stomach cancer and will be attending to his health and family. He will continue his work as the Richard Rodgers Director of the Drama Division at the Juilliard School.

Mare Winningham, James Houghton and Lois Smith at the opening night party of Old Hats, starring Bill Irwin, David Shiner and Nellie McKay, on March 4, 2013. Photo by Lia Chang

Mare Winningham, James Houghton and Lois Smith at the opening night party of Old Hats, starring Bill Irwin, David Shiner and Nellie McKay, on March 4, 2013. Photo by Lia Chang

Under James Houghton’s leadership as Founding Artistic Director, Signature Theatre has become one of the country’s preeminent theatre companies. Signature was the first company to dedicate a full season to a living writer’s body of work, and in the past 25 years has hosted a diverse roster of some of the theatre’s most exciting and accomplished playwrights. The company has since launched two additional residency programs, as well as the Signature Ticket Initiative, its groundbreaking ticket subsidy program. In 2012 Signature opened The Pershing Square Signature Center, the largest new theatre center in New York City in nearly 50 years, and was recognized in 2014 with the Regional Theatre Tony Award for its unique mission and outstanding body of work. Houghton has worked closely with the Board of Trustees to identify a clear path toward securing a thoughtful and smooth transition to the next phase in the company’s future.

James Houghton and Edward Albee at the opening party for David Henry Hwang's Golden Child at The Pershing Square Signature Center on November 13, 2012. Photo by Lia Chang

James Houghton and Edward Albee at the opening party for David Henry Hwang’s Golden Child at The Pershing Square Signature Center on November 13, 2012. Photo by Lia Chang

Founding Artistic Director James Houghton said, “It has been a privilege beyond measure to work with the extraordinary writers, artists, staff, trustees, and visionary supporters, past and present, that have all defined Signature with an unparalleled passion and fortitude. I look forward to working with them all over this next year as we move into this next exciting chapter. A bright future lies ahead.”

Ruben Santiago-Hudson, Leslie Uggams, Leslie Lee and James Houghton after a preview performance of The First Breeze of Summer at the Peter Norton Space at Signature Theatre Company on August 17, 2008. Photo by Lia Chang

Ruben Santiago-Hudson, Leslie Uggams, Leslie Lee and James Houghton after a preview performance of The First Breeze of Summer at the Peter Norton Space at Signature Theatre Company on August 17, 2008. Photo by Lia Chang

Chairman Edward Norton said, “Signature Theatre has come a long way since Jim founded the company almost 25 years ago, and is making smart, proactive moves to ensure the success of its next 25 years by cultivating the next generation of artistic leadership under Jim’s close collaboration and support. Jim has been an incredible leader with remarkable vision, and he proactively designed a plan for the company to grow and thrive for the long haul. The wonderful thing about Signature is that, as much as Jim has defined and personified the spirit of the company, our success has ultimately been driven by the strength and uniqueness of the underlying mission.”

President Kate Roche Hope said, “We are filled with profound gratitude for Jim’s extraordinary vision and leadership over the past 25 years. Jim not only blazed the path for Signature’s unique place in the New York theatre world, but also created a singular home for playwrights and our community.

Together with our artists, staff and Board, we are excited for the endless potential that lies ahead for Signature Theatre and The Pershing Square Signature Center.”

About SIGNATURE THEATRE
Signature Theatre exists to honor and celebrate the playwright. Founded in 1991 by James Houghton, Signature makes an extended commitment to a playwright’s body of work, and during this journey, the writer is engaged in every aspect of the creative process. By championing in-depth explorations of a playwright’s body of work, Signature delivers an intimate and immersive journey into the playwright’s singular vision. In 2014 Signature became the first New York City theatre to receive the Regional Theatre Tony Award®.

Signature serves its mission through its permanent home at The Pershing Square Signature Center, a three-theatre facility on West 42nd Street designed by Frank Gehry Architects to host Signature’s three distinct playwrights’ residencies and foster a cultural community. At the Center, opened in January 2012, Signature continues its founding Playwright-in-Residence model as Residency One, a first-of-its-kind, intensive exploration of a single writer’s body of work. Residency Five, the only program of its kind, was launched at the Center to support multiple playwrights as they build bodies of work by guaranteeing each writer three productions over a five-year period. The Legacy Program, launched during Signature’s 10th Anniversary, invites writers from both residencies back for productions of premiere or earlier plays.

The Pershing Square Signature Center is a major contribution to New York City’s cultural landscape and provides a venue for cultural organizations that supports and encourages collaboration among artists throughout the space. In addition to its three intimate theatres, the Center features a studio theatre, rehearsal studio, and a public café, bar and bookstore. Through the Signature Ticket Initiative: A Generation of Access, Signature has also made an unprecedented commitment to making its productions accessible by underwriting the cost of initial run tickets, currently priced at $25, through 2031.

Signature has presented entire seasons of the work of Edward Albee, Lee Blessing, Horton Foote, Maria Irene Fornes, Athol Fugard, John Guare, David Henry Hwang, Bill Irwin, Adrienne Kennedy, Tony Kushner, Romulus Linney, Charles Mee, Arthur Miller, Sam Shepard, Paula Vogel, August Wilson, Lanford Wilson, and a season celebrating the historic Negro Ensemble Company. The current Residency One playwrights are A.R. Gurney and Naomi Wallace. The current Residency Five playwrights are Annie Baker, Martha Clarke, Will Eno, Katori Hall, Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, Kenneth Lonergan and Regina Taylor. In addition to the Regional Theatre Tony Award®, Signature’s productions and its resident writers have been recognized with the Pulitzer Prize, Lucille Lortel Awards, Obie Awards, Drama Desk Awards, and AUDELCO Awards, among many other distinctions.

For more information, please visit www.signaturetheatre.org.

James Houghton, Lia Chang and David Henry Hwang.

James Houghton, Lia Chang and David Henry Hwang at the opening night party of Signature Theatre Company’s revival of Hwang’s The Dance and the Railroad on February 25, 2013 at The Pershing Square Signature Center in New York.

Lia Chang is an actor, a performance and fine art botanical photographer, and an award-winning multi-platform journalist. She is a Signature Theatre alumni who was in the cast of Sam Shepard’s Chicago, during his Signature 1996-1997 Playwright-in-Residence Season.

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Crafting a Career
Click here  for the Lia Chang Articles Archive and here for the Lia Chang Photography Website.

All text, graphics, articles & photographs: © 2000-2015 Lia Chang Multimedia. All rights reserved. All materials contained on this site are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of Lia Chang. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content. For permission, please contact Lia at liachangpr@gmail.com

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