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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
Details of a public memorial will be made available in the coming weeks.
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.com, Jade Magazine and Playbill.com.