Signature Theatre (Arlington, Virginia)
|Purpose||contemporary musicals&plays, classic musicals, new works,|
Founded in 1990, the Signature Theatre is known for its productions of musicals and new plays. Under the leadership of Co-Founder and Artistic Director Eric D. Schaeffer and Managing Director Maggie Boland, the company has staged 38 world premiere productions.
Cameron Mackintosh, Terrence McNally, John Kander, and Fred Ebb are among those that have presented works here. Since 1991, Signature has had a long relationship with Stephen Sondheim, producing 22 of his musicals, revues and concerts—more than any other professional theater in the country.
The theatre established a Sondheim Award "as a tribute to America's most influential contemporary musical theatre composer". The first award, to Stephen Sondheim, was presented at an April 27, 2009 benefit with performances by Bernadette Peters, Michael Cerveris, Will Gartshore and Eleasha Gamble.
In 1990 Signature Theatre began production in the Arlington County Gunston Arts Center. This original home was in the library of a former middle school which had been converted to a black box theater. They rapidly outgrew this facility and in 1993 acquired a defunct Auto Bumper Plating shop, AKA "The Garage", which they converted into a 136-seat black box. In 2007, however, in partnership with Arlington County, Virginia, Signature moved into a new $16 million theater complex built in The Village at Shirlington. The first floor of the building houses the Shirlington Branch of the Arlington County Public Library. The upper three floors house the theater. The complex has an industrial decor, with exposed particle board, pipes and metal sheeting. It includes two state-of-the-art black box theaters. The larger, christened "Max" in honor of Maxine Isaacs, seats 275 and can expand to accommodate 350 patrons. The smaller "Ark", named in honor of Arlene and Robert Kogod, can hold 99. The theaters are built as "square box within a square box, floating on hockey pucks. At $30 a puck. It is built like a soundstage" In addition to the two performance spaces, the complex contains a lobby, meeting rooms, three rehearsal spaces, four individual dressing rooms, three shared dressing rooms, three showers, a cast greenroom, a separate orchestra greenroom, three kitchen areas, scene, prop, and costume shops. The large lobby was named by donors Gilbert and Jaylee Mead in honor Gilbert's late son Rob Mead.
Recent productions include Sunset Boulevard, Hairspray, Xanadu, Over and Over, Urinetown, Side Show, Grand Hotel, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, The Rink, The Witches of Eastwick, The Visit, starring Chita Rivera, and Dreamgirls
In the 2007-08 season, Signature presented a Kander and Ebb Celebration. It began in March 2008 with Kiss of the Spider Woman starring Natascia Diaz, Will Chase, and Hunter Foster, then The Happy Time, and finally The Visit which starred Chita Rivera and George Hearn.
Signature's 2008-2009 season featured a Broadway-bound season opener - the musical Ace, The Little Dog Laughed, The Lieutenant Of Inishmore, a world premiere musical with music and lyrics by Michael John LaChiusa, Giant, See What I Wanna See, and Les Misérables.
Significant Past Productions
- Sweeney Todd By Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler; August 27 - September 21, 1991.
- Assassins By Stephen Sondheim and John Weidman; August 20 - October 3, 1992.
- The Fix by John Dempsey and Dana P. Rowe; March 17 - May 10, 1998. This production was significant because it began a long-term relationship between the theatre and Cameron Mackintosh
- Grand Hotel, By Luther Davis, Robert Wright, George Forrest, Maury Yeston; August 21 - October 7, 2001.
- Les Miserablles by Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg. Based on a novel by Victor Hugo; December 2, 2008 – February 22, 2009.
- 2009 Regional Theatre Tony Award
- 2002 - Jonathan Larson Performing Arts Foundation grant for The Unknown: a silent musical by Janet Allard, Jean Randich and Shane Rettig. It was ultimately produced by Page 73 Productions at Joe's Pub as part of The Public Theater's New Work Now Festival 2004, and in the New York Musical Theater festival in 2005.
305 Helen Hayes Nominations with 75 Awards (as of 2012) including the following
- 2011 Outstanding Resident Musical, "Hairspray" (the production of "Hairspray" also garnered awards for Best Musical Ensemble, Outstanding Lead Actress (Musical), Outstanding Supporting Actress (Musical), and Outstanding Music Direction)
- 2009 Outstanding Resident Musical Canadian Embassy Award for Outstanding Ensemble, Resident Musical - Les Misérables.
- 2006 Outstanding Resident Musical - Urinetown.
- 2005 Outstanding Resident Musical - Allegro.
- 2001 Outstanding Resident Musical - Side Show.
- 1999 Outstanding Resident Play - Nijinsky's Last Dance.
- 1997 Outstanding Resident Musical - Passion.
- 1995 Outstanding Resident Musical - Into the Woods.
- 1993 Outstanding Resident Musical - Assassins.
- 1992 Outstanding Resident Musical - Sweeney Todd.
Other Items Of Note
The Signature Theatre offers a number of programs to both writers and performing artists, and to the community.
- The New Play Festival develops new work by local and national writers.
- Signature in the Schools is a program designed for Arlington County high school students, culminating in an annual all-student production.
- Signature Sings Broadway in Ballston presents a series of free summer concerts.
- Signature in the City mounts productions in Washington, DC.
- Overtures, a two-week musical theater intensive course for performers age 18 and older, is held to encourage young musical theatre performers in the area. A separate, 'pre-Overtures' program (for ages 14–17) exists for younger students, called "Stage One".
- The Cabaret series features professional cabaret singers from Washington and New York City.
Signature Theatre is a member of League of Resident Theatres (LORT) using the League administered collective bargaining agreements with Actors' Equity Association (AEA), the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society (SDC), and United Scenic Artists (USA).
- Randy Shulman (5 July 2007). "Signature Style: Eric Schaeffer turned his passion for musicals into Arlington's theatrical crown jewel". Metro Weekly. Retrieved 2008-03-13.
- Trescott, Jacqueline (January 11, 2007). "A Signature Space To Match Its Reputation". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2009-10-24.
- Jones, Kenneth. "Signature Creates Sondheim Award, to Be Presented at April 2009 Gala" Playbill, October 6, 2008
- Horwitz, Jane. "Backstage" column Washington Post, October 8, 2008
- Jones, Kenneth. "Peters and Cerveris Celebrate Sondheim at DC Sondheim Award Gala April 27" Playbill, April 27, 2009
- Schaeffer, Eric with Valente, Sarah (2011). My Signature Story. Parker, CO: Outskirts Press Inc. pp. 12, 122. ISBN 978-1-4327-6199-8.
- Schaeffer 2011, pp. 32–40.
- "New Home for Signature Theatre in Shirlington","Washingtonian.com", January 1, 2007
- "Arlington Virginia - Shirlington Library". Retrieved 2009-10-24.
- "Signature Theatre Open House Back Stage Tour". 13 January 2007.
- Jones, Kenneth."Kiss to Build a Dream On: Chase, Diaz, Foster Ignite Kander & Ebb Festival in DC", Playbill.com, March 11, 2008
- Signature Theatre listing, 2008-09 season
- "Tony Legacy - Search Past Winners - Signature Theatre". Retrieved 2009-10-22.
- "John Larson Grant Recipients". American Theatre Wing. Retrieved 2009-10-24.
- "Playscripts Inc - Authors - Janet Allard Bio and play details". Playscripts Inc. Retrieved 2009-10-24.
- "Helen Hayes Awards Search Recipients - Signature". Retrieved 2009-10-22.
- "LORT Member Theatres". Retrieved 2009-10-24.
- "Members of the League of Washington Theatres". Retrieved 2009-10-24.