Coordinates: 38°50′27.2″N 77°5′24.38″W / 38.840889°N 77.0901056°W / 38.840889; -77.0901056

Signature Theatre
TypeTheatre group
Purposecontemporary musicals & plays, classic musicals, new works

Signature Theatre is a Tony Award winning[1] regional theater company based in Arlington, Virginia.


Founded in 1989,[2] 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.[3]

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.[4][5][6] The 2020 awardee is Carol Burnett. Recent awardees include Cameron Mackintosh (2017), John Kander (2018), and Audra McDonald (2019).[7]


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,, 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.[8]


Exterior of Signature Theatre above the Shirlington Library. The doors to the library are on the right, the theater entrance on the left. The lobby is behind the 14' high by 140' long second floor glass wall
Exterior of Signature Theatre above the Shirlington Library. The doors to the library are on the right, the theater entrance on the left. The lobby is behind the 14' high by 140' long second floor glass wall
SignatureTheatreArlingtonVirginiaArk logo.gif
SignatureTheatreArlingtonVirginiaMax logo.gif

In 1989 Signature Theatre began production in the Arlington County Gunston Arts Center.[9] 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.[10] In 2007, however, in partnership with Arlington County, Virginia, Signature moved into a new $16 million theater complex built in The Village at Shirlington.[3][11] The first floor of the building houses the Shirlington Branch of the Arlington County Public Library.[12] 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.[3][13] The large lobby was named by donors Gilbert and Jaylee Mead in honor Gilbert's late son Rob Mead.[3]

Notable past productions

Production history

1990–1991 season

1991–1992 season

1992–1993 season

1993–1994 season

1994–1995 season

1995–1996 season

1996–1997 season

1997–1998 season

1998–1999 season

1999–2000 season

2000–2001 season

2001–2002 season

2002–2003 season

2003–2004 season

2004–2005 season

2005–2006 season

2006–2007 season

2007–2008 season

2008–2009 season

2009–2010 season

2010–2011 season

2011–2012 season

2012–2013 season

2013–2014 season

2014–2015 season

2015–2016 season

2016–2017 season

2017–2018 season

2018–2019 season

2019–2020 season


431 Helen Hayes Nominations with 107 Awards (as of 2019) including the following

Programs and memberships

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).[17]

Signature Theatre is a member of the League of Washington Theaters (LOWT).[18]

See also


  1. ^ "Signature Theatre Wins 2009 Regional Theatre Tony Award". DCist. Retrieved 2019-07-23.
  2. ^ 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.
  3. ^ a b c d Trescott, Jacqueline (January 11, 2007). "A Signature Space To Match Its Reputation". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2009-10-24.
  4. ^ Jones, Kenneth. "Signature Creates Sondheim Award, to Be Presented at April 2009 Gala" Playbill, October 6, 2008
  5. ^ Horwitz, Jane. "Backstage" column Washington Post, October 8, 2008
  6. ^ Jones, Kenneth. "Peters and Cerveris Celebrate Sondheim at DC Sondheim Award Gala April 27" Playbill, April 27, 2009
  7. ^ Gans, Andrew. "Carol Burnett to Receive 2020 Stephen Sondheim Award" Playbill, November 14, 2019
  8. ^ "Eric Schaeffer departs Signature Theatre amid sexual assault allegations - The Washington Post".
  9. ^ Schaeffer, Eric with Valente, Sarah (2011). My Signature Story. Parker, CO: Outskirts Press Inc. pp. 12, 122. ISBN 978-1-4327-6199-8.((cite book)): CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  10. ^ Schaeffer 2011, pp. 32–40.
  11. ^ "New Home for Signature Theatre in Shirlington","", January 1, 2007
  12. ^ "Arlington Virginia – Shirlington Library". Retrieved 2009-10-24.
  13. ^ "Signature Theatre Open House Back Stage Tour". 13 January 2007.
  14. ^ Jones, Kenneth."Kiss to Build a Dream On: Chase, Diaz, Foster Ignite Kander & Ebb Festival in DC", Archived 2008-04-15 at the Wayback Machine, March 11, 2008
  15. ^ "Tony Legacy – Search Past Winners – Signature Theatre". Archived from the original on 2012-02-04. Retrieved 2009-10-22.
  16. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Helen Hayes Awards Search Recipients – Signature". Archived from the original on 2010-01-30. Retrieved 2009-10-22.
  17. ^ "LORT Member Theatres". Archived from the original on 2009-11-14. Retrieved 2009-10-24.
  18. ^ "Members of the League of Washington Theatres". Retrieved 2009-10-24.