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Signature Theatre company to open Frank Gehry-Designed Signature Center in February 2012
Model of Signature Center bookstore. Courtesy Gehry Partners, LLP.
NEW YORK, N.Y.- Signature Theatre will open Signature Center, its new, permanent home designed by Frank Gehry, in February 2012. Spanning an entire city block at 42nd Street between Dyer and 10th Avenue, Signature Center will feature three intimate theatres, a studio theatre, rehearsal studio, and a public café and bookstore. The Center will be both a theatre community hub and a neighborhood destination, and has been designed to foster interaction among playwrights, collaborators, and the public. The $66 million project is being funded through a public-private partnership and will be staffed by more than 400 people annually.

Signature Center will allow the 20-year-old theatre company, critically acclaimed for its programs that celebrate the playwright’s body of work, to expand and enhance its programming, introduce new initiatives, and build audiences. Signature Center will serve as the artistic home for as many as 11 playwrights at any one time, fostering a dynamic creative community where playwrights will engage directly with audiences and one another. Each season, the Company will present up to nine plays at Signature Center, encompassing both new work and new productions of existing work mounted in close collaboration with each playwright. Signature’s expanded programming includes:

*Residency One: The continuation of Signature’s core program, Residency One provides audiences with an immersive exploration of the work of a singular playwright—from re-examinations of early writings to world premieres, with the playwright involved in every step of the process.

*Residency Five: A new artistic initiative that provides five-year residencies for multiple playwrights to support the creation and staging of new work by providing three full-scale productions to each playwright.

*Legacy Program: Honors the lifetime achievement of artists who have previously been in residence at Signature with stagings of world premieres and signature works.

Recent Tony Award winner for Lifetime Achievement Athol Fugard has been named the Residency One playwright for the inaugural Signature Center season and will be in residence to collaborate with the actors, directors, and artistic staff in bringing his work to life. A native of South Africa, Fugard is best known for his highly political plays opposing racial apartheid. The playwrights for the Legacy Program and Residency Five will be announced at a later date.

“By expanding both our physical space and our audiences, the opening of Signature Center will allow Signature to complete the transformation from a theatre company to an institution dedicated to nurturing playwrights at every stage of their careers,” noted James Houghton, Founding Artistic Director of Signature. “Signature Center has been specifically conceived to foster orchestrated collisions between playwrights, artists and audiences, which will create a dynamic new culture for theater going that goes far beyond the work on stage.”

Designed by Frank Gehry, working hand-in-hand with Signature Theatre leadership, the 70,000-squarefoot Signature Center will feature three theatres of different character and configurations, providing playwrights a number of dynamic performance areas in which to set their work. The theatres include:
*a 199-seat proscenium theatre, modeled after a traditional opera house
*a 199-seat flexible courtyard theatre
*a 299-seat end stage theatre

These intimate, state-of-the-art stages, all located on one contiguous floor, are complemented by a studio theatre and dedicated rehearsal studio, extensive back-of-house facilities, and administrative offices. Signature Center also features an expansive main lobby with a café and bookstore that are open to the public.

“There is something magical that happens when one attends a live performance, an interaction between actors and audience that is palpable,” noted architect Frank Gehry. “I wanted to create a space that celebrates and enhances the intimacy between the performer and the audience, while encouraging the innovation that Signature is known for. We have worked very hard to foster this in the three theatres, while allowing each to have its own identity.”

Since its founding in 1991, Signature has presented entire seasons tracing the trajectories of Edward Albee, Horton Foote, Arthur Miller, Paula Vogel and August Wilson, to note only a few. Signature’s recently concluded 20th Anniversary season presented the work of Pulitzer Prize-winner Tony Kushner, including the first New York revival of Angels in America.

“I started with this company in 1994 when I was 24 and we were in a 99-seat black box theater down on Bond Street. To work with Jim Houghton, who I think is one of the authentic theater visionaries of my generation, to establish a new 'legacy institution' for New York is one of the most exciting experiences I've had in 20 years living in this city,” noted Signature board member and actor Edward Norton, who serves as the Theatre’s capital campaign chair. “I look at Signature's mission as part of a broader mission to institutionalize big parts of our cultural cannon. Playwriting needs that platform as much as classical music or jazz or fine arts and there needs to be a place where we can examine what's happened in the American theatre in big chunks.”

In pursuit of its goal to build new audiences and remove the price barrier to those interested in experiencing live theatre, Signature has provided $20 tickets to all of its productions since 2005 through its groundbreaking Signature Ticket Initative. This innovative program has served as a model for theatres and performing arts organizations across the country.

Signature Center is housed within MiMA, Related Companies’ newest high-rise mixed use development. The 63-story glass tower is also home to rentals and condo units and YOTEL, the innovative European pod hotel.

Signature Theatre | Signature Center | Frank Gehry | Residency One | Residency Five | Legacy Program | Athol Fugard |  |


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