James Houghton Named Head of Juilliard Drama

News   James Houghton Named Head of Juilliard Drama James Houghton, the founder and artistic director of the Signature Theatre Company, has been named the new head of the drama department at Juilliard, the respected Manhattan acting and playwriting school.

Houghton's official title will be the Richard Rodgers Director of Drama, and he will begin his duties during the 2006-2007 academic and performance season.

Houghton succeeds Michael Kahn, who held the top post at Juilliard for 14 years. Kahn will continue as a teacher.

The Juilliard acting program is one of the most famous in the U.S. Among its many graduates are such well-known performers as Christine Baranski, Andre Braugher, Frances Conroy, Marcia Cross, Viola Davis, Lisa Gay Hamilton, Kelsey Grammer, Harriet Harris, William Hurt, Patti LuPone, Kevin Kline, Laura Linney, Elizabeth Marvel, Mandy Patinkin, Christopher Reeve, Ving Rhames and Kevin Spacey.

The one-year playwright program, founded in 1993, has produced David Auburn, Stephen Belber, Brooke Berman, Daniel Goldfarb, Julia Cho, David Lindsay-Abaire, Kira Obolensky, and Adam Rapp.

Joseph W. Polisi, president of The Juilliard School, said in an official statement , "Jim Houghton's appointment as the Richard Rodgers Director of Drama at Juilliard heralds a new era in the distinguished history of actor education at the School. His vision, knowledge, creativity, and extraordinary success in the profession as a director, producer and supporter of young talent make him the perfect person to lead Juilliard's program into the future. We also look forward to working closely with Signature Theatre in developing programs that will benefit both institutions." Houghton said in a statement: "I am thrilled and honored to be part of the long tradition of excellence at The Juilliard School and I am grateful to President Polisi and the selection committee for my appointment. On the occasion of its centennial, The Juilliard School is celebrating its extraordinary past while looking bravely to a future filled with exciting potential. I'm looking forward to being part of that future and working together with the tremendous talents that fill the halls of this remarkable school."

More than many artistic directors, Houghton has taken positions of authority outside his theatre company. He is an artistic advisor to the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, was artistic director of The New Harmony Project from 1997 to 1999, and, most notably, help the position of artistic director of the O'Neill Playwrights from 1999-2003. His tenure at the latter was turbulent. He set off a furor when he announced the O'Neill would end the long-standing policy of open play submissions. The move sparked complaints from both unknown scribes and name playwrights such as Christopher Durang and Wendy Wasserstein. Soon after, he resigned in reaction to what he called his exclusion from the O'Neill board's plans to consolidate leadership at the center.