|Purpose||contemporary musicals & plays, classic musicals, new works|
Signature Theatre is a Tony Award winning regional theater company based in Arlington, Virginia.
Founded in 1989, Signature Theatre is known for its productions of contemporary musicals and plays, reinventions of classic musicals, and development of new work. Under the leadership of Co-Founder and former Artistic Director Eric D. Schaeffer and Managing Director Maggie Boland, the company has staged 59 world premiere productions, including 19 new musical commissions. Signature is home to the single largest musical theater commissioning project in the United States, The American Musical Voices Project.
Cameron Mackintosh, Terrence McNally, James Lapine, 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 30 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. The 2020 awardee is Carol Burnett. Recent awardees include Cameron Mackintosh (2017), John Kander (2018), and Audra McDonald (2019).
In 1989, in response to DC's theater scene that was dominated by large venues that presented mostly traditional plays and the desire to create a “signature” brand of provocative works, graphic designer and performer Eric Schaeffer founded Signature Theatre with actor Donna Migliaccio. Signature first began in Arlington county's Gunston Middle School auditorium, and in 1991 Signature presented their first production of a musical, Sweeney Todd, a stand-out hit, that put Signature on the map, earned four Helen Hayes Awards and solidified Signature's (and Eric Schaeffer's) reputation as an intrepid producer of Stephen Sondheim's work.
In 1993, Signature Theatre converted a defunct auto garage into a blackbox theater, and remained there for the following thirteen years. While in the “garage,” Signature grew into one of the Washington area's leading producers of musical theater.
In January 2007, Signature completed a $16 million capital campaign for a dramatic new two-theater facility that tripled its former garage space and now serves as the cultural anchor of Arlington's Village at Shirlington.
On June 7, 2009, Signature received theater's highest artistic honor – the 2009 Regional Theatre Tony Award® – in recognition of artistic excellence.
Today, attracting talent from the DC metropolitan region and New York, Signature has grown to reach more than 100,000 people annually from the Washington, DC region and beyond and garners praise from local and national press including The Washington Post, The New York Times, Entertainment Weekly, The Wall Street Journal, BroadwayWorld.com, Playbill, Time, Variety, USA Today and American Theatre. Signature has won 107 Helen Hayes Awards for excellence in the Washington, DC region's professional theater and has been honored with 431 nominations.
Eric Schaeffer resigned on June 23, 2020, amidst multiple allegations of sexual harassment and assault.
In 1989 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.
431 Helen Hayes Nominations with 107 Awards (as of 2019) including the following
The Signature Theatre offers a number of programs to both writers and performing artists, and to the community..
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).
Signature Theatre is a member of the League of Washington Theaters (LOWT).
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