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Thursday, 09 June 2011 21:42

Signature Launches Signature Center with Athol Fugard as Inaugural Playwright

The Signature Theatre Company







Signature Theatre Company (Founding Artistic Director James Houghton; Executive Director Erika Mallin), will launch the theatre’s new home, Signature Center, with Athol Fugard as its inaugural Residency One playwright.  Residency One is Signature’s core one year playwright-in-residence program that produces a series of plays from the body of work of one accomplished writer.  Throughout the season, Signature will explore the works of Fugard, the South African playwright, director and actor, who will also be honored with a special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement at the Tony Awards this Sunday, June 12

Signature Center is a new 74,000 square foot facility at 480 West 42nd Street near 10th Avenue, designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Frank Gehry and featuring three theatres, two rehearsal spaces and administrative offices all on one level and connected by a shared lobby with a café and bookstore.  Signature Center will serve as Signature Theatre Company’s permanent home and will open in February, 2012. 

Signature Center will feature three unique programs: the continuation of Residency One, the program Signature Theatre Company is best known for, which is a one year residency for a playwright with a major body of work; the expansion of the Legacy Program, which is a homecoming for past Signature Playwrights-in-Residence with a production of a premiere or signature play; and the introduction of Residency Five, which will encourage the creation of a body of work by guaranteeing multiple playwrights three productions over the course of a five-year residency.  These three programs combined will allow Signature to produce up to nine shows a year and provide an artistic home for up to eleven playwrights each season.  The Legacy Program and Residency Five playwrights will be announced at a later date. 

“Signature is honored to host Athol Fugard as our inaugural Residency One Playwright and our first international Playwright-in-Residence,” commented Signature’s Founding Artistic Director James Houghton. “Athol is a writer of astounding courage and humanity, which is evident in his breathtaking body of work that spans over fifty years. We look forward to presenting a wide breadth of that work, from his early to his latest plays, and we look forward to experiencing his rich and deep history at our new Center alongside our Legacy and Residency Five offerings.”

“A season at Signature? What an extraordinary opportunity to reflect on 50 years of playwriting,” remarked Athol Fugard.  “I’m thrilled to be among the first resident playwrights at Signature’s very exciting new home.”

Titles, dates and directors for the Athol Fugard series will be announced at a later date. 

Athol Fugard has been working in the theatre as a playwright, director and actor in South Africa, England and the United States for over fifty years. This Sunday, June 12, he will receive a Lifetime Achievement Tony Award. In November he was the inaugural Humanitas Visiting Professor of Drama at Oxford University. His latest play The Bird Watchers premiered this year at The Fugard Theatre in Cape Town. Last yearThe Train Driver, featuring Sean Taylor and Owen Sejake, transferred to The Hampstead Theatre in London for a critically acclaimed run.  His plays include: No-Good Friday, Nongogo, Blood Knot, Hello and Goodbye, People are Living, There, Boesman and Lena, Statements After an Arrest Under the Immorality Act, Sizwe Banzi is Dead, Dimetos, The Island, A Lesson From Aloes, ‘Master Harold’ …and the Boys, The Road to Mecca, A Place With the Pigs, My Children! My Africa!, Playland, Valley Song, The Captain’s Tiger, Sorrows and Rejoicings, Exits and Entrances, Victory, Coming Home, The Train Driver and The Bird Watchers.

Signature Theatre Company, founded in 1991 by James Houghton, exists to honor and celebrate the playwright.  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.  Signature is the first theatre company to devote an entire season to the work of a single playwright, including re-examinations of past writings as well as New York and world premieres. By championing in-depth explorations of a living playwright’s body of work, the Company delivers an intimate and immersive journey into the playwright’s singular vision. 

Signature has presented entire seasons of the work of Edward Albee, Lee Blessing, Horton Foote, Maria Irene Fornes, John Guare, Bill Irwin, Adrienne Kennedy, Romulus Linney, Charles Mee, Arthur Miller, Sam Shepard, Paula Vogel, August Wilson, Lanford Wilson, the Negro Ensemble Company and Tony Kushner.  Signature remains deeply committed to season-long residencies, and during the company’s tenth and fifteenth anniversaries, Signature introduced the Legacy Program.  The Legacy Program invites past Playwrights-in-Residence back to Signature through two series: the Signature Series, which presents “signature,” or more well-known works; and the Premiere Series, which presents New York and world premieres. 

Since 2005, Signature has been committed to presenting world-class theatre at an affordable price through The Signature Ticket Initiative, which offers subsidized $20 tickets. 

In October of 2008, Signature announced the creation of Signature Center, a permanent home to open in February 2012. Designed by Frank Gehry Architects with Hardy Collaboration Architecture LLC as Architect of Record, the Center will comprise three theatres, two rehearsal studios, a café, bookstore, and offices all on one level – a configuration that allows the company not only the space to expand its programming, but also the proximity for natural interaction between artists and audiences of the different programs. In its new home, Signature will continue its season-long residencies exploring the body of work of one playwright (to be known as Residency One), expand the Legacy Program, and introduce Residency Five. Residency Five will encourage the creation of a body of work by guaranteeing playwrights three productions over the course of a five-year residency. These three programs combined will allow Signature to provide an artistic home for up to eleven playwrights each season. This groundbreaking facility will offer a vital presence on West 42nd Street and will make it possible for Signature to collaborate with playwrights throughout the entire trajectory of their careers. For more information please visit

Signature, its productions and its resident writers have been recognized with a Pulitzer Prize, fourteen Lucille Lortel Awards, sixteen Obie Awards, six Drama Desk Awards, and twenty-two AUDELCO Awards, among many other distinctions. The National Theatre Conference recognized the company as the 2003 Outstanding National Theatre of the Year. For more information on Signature please visit us on-line at

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