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Signature Theatre Founding Artistic Director James Houghton Passes Away; Off-Broadway theatres will dim their lights on 8/4

James Houghton. Photo by Lia Chang

James Houghton. Photo by Lia Chang

Signature Theatre’s founding artistic director James Houghton passed away at his home in Manhattan on August 2, 2016 after a two year battle with stomach cancer. He was 57 years old.

The theater community has lost a very special man, a true visionary and brilliant leader. We are forever in your debt.

updated 8/3/16
Honoring his work and dedication to the Off-Broadway community, numerous Off-Broadway theatres will dim their lights on Thursday at 7:45PM, in memory of theatre legend James (Jim) Houghton.

Among the participating Theatres are the Theater Center, Barrow Street Theatre, Cherry Lane Theatre, Lucille Lortel Theatre, Minetta Lane, Orpheum, Playwright Horizons, Daryl Roth Theatre, DR2, Player’s Theatre, The Public Theater, Second Stage, Davenport Theatre, Westside Theatre and Theatre Row.

nytimes.com: James Houghton, Founder of Signature Theater, Showcase for Playwrights, Dies at 57

nytimes.com: James Houghton, a Daring Champion of the American Theater

broadwayworld.com: Off-Broadway Venues Will Dim Lights in Memory of Signature Theatre’s James Houghton

Tributes for Jim

Under James Houghton’s leadership, Signature Theatre has become one of the country’s preeminent theatre companies. Founded by Houghton in 1991, 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. 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.

Jim Houghton and David Henry Hwang. Photo by Lia Chang

Jim Houghton and David Henry Hwang. Photo by Lia Chang

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.

2015 Steinberg Playwright Award winner Branden Jacobs-Jenkins and James Houghton, Founding Artistic Director of Signature Theatre attend the 2015 Steinberg Playwright Awards on November 16, 2015 in New York City. Photo by Lia Chang

2015 Steinberg Playwright Award winner Branden Jacobs-Jenkins and James Houghton, Founding Artistic Director of Signature Theatre attend the 2015 Steinberg Playwright Awards on November 16, 2015 in New York City. Photo by Lia Chang

LTC3's Artistic Director Paige Evans, 2015 Steinberg Award winner Dominique Morisseau and Signature Theatre’s Founding Artistic Director James Houghton attend the 2015 Steinberg Playwright Awards on November 16, 2015 in New York City. Photo by Lia Chang

LTC3’s Artistic Director Paige Evans, 2015 Steinberg Award winner Dominique Morisseau and Signature Theatre’s Founding Artistic Director James Houghton attend the 2015 Steinberg Playwright Awards on November 16, 2015 in New York City. Photo by Lia Chang

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.

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

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

Since 2006, Mr. Houghton also served as the Richard Rodgers Director of the Drama Division at The Juilliard School. To enhance the program, Mr. Houghton and the Drama Division initiated significant new programming and opportunities for students. Among these opportunities are a new Master of Fine Arts Program, which offers free tuition and a living stipend during the fourth and final year of training; the introduction of a Playwrights Festival featuring performances of plays written by students of the renowned Lila Acheson Wallace American Playwrights Program; and a bridge to the profession through the creation of the Professional Studio hosted by Signature Theatre, allowing Juilliard’s actors and writers to collaborate closely and build lasting artistic relationships.

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

Mr. Houghton was honored by The Acting Company with the 2012 John Houseman Award for his profound commitment to developing American actors and building a diverse audience for the theatre, as well as the William Inge Festival’s 1998 Margo Jones Medal for an outstanding contribution to the American theatre. In 2015, he was awarded a Special Award for Sustained Achievement at the 60th Annual Obie Awards. In 2016, he received the Lucille Lortel Award for Lifetime Achievement and a Special Achievement Award from the Outer Critics Circle. In 2013, he was inducted into the College of the Fellows of the American Theatre and presented with an honorary Doctorate of Performing Arts by his alma mater, Santa Clara University. Mr. Houghton has also served as the Artistic Director of the O’Neill Playwrights Conference (1999-2003), Artistic Director of the New Harmony Project (1996-1999), and the Artistic Advisor to the Guthrie Theater (1998-2012).

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

Houghton is survived by his wife Joyce O’Connor, children Henry and Lily Houghton, parents Joan and Sherill Houghton, and siblings Scott Houghton, Susan Houghton, Lynne Houghton and Trish Houghton Line.

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

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to AfterWork Theater and Daniel’s Music, two organizations that helped his son Henry’s life.

Details of a public memorial will be made available in the coming weeks.

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

The Piano Lesson leading man Brandon Dirden, Signature's founding artistic director James Houghton and Crystal Dickinson (Photo by Lia Chang)

The Piano Lesson leading man Brandon Dirden, Signature’s founding artistic director James Houghton and Crystal Dickinson (Photo by Lia Chang)

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.

villagevoice.com: A Farewell to Signature Theatre Founder James Houghton

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

Lia Chang_photo by Garth Kravits

Lia Chang_photo by Garth Kravits

Lia Chang is an actor, a multi-media content producer and co-founder of Bev’s Girl Films, making films that foster inclusion and diversity on both sides of the camera. Lia is a Signature Theatre alumni who was in the cast of Sam Shepard’s Chicago, during his Signature 1996-1997 Playwright-in-Residence Season. Bev’s Girl Films’ debut short film, Hide and Seek was a top ten film in the Asian American Film Lab’s 2015 72 Hour Shootout Filmmaking Competition, and she received a Best Actress nomination. BGF collaborates with and produces multi-media content for artists, actors, designers, theatrical productions, composers,  musicians and corporations. Lia is also an internationally published and exhibited photographer, a multi-platform journalist, and a publicist. Lia has appeared in the films Wolf, New Jack City, A Kiss Before Dying, King of New York, Big Trouble in Little China, The Last Dragon, Taxman and Hide and Seek. She is profiled in Examiner.comJade Magazine and Playbill.com.

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