Signature founding artistic director James Houghton and executive director Erika Mallin announced the new season April 1. Productions will include Leslie Lee's The First Breeze of Summer, Samm-Art Williams' Home and Charles Fuller's Zooman and the Sign. A staged reading of Douglas Turner Ward's Day of Absence and the Signature Reading Series (held Monday evenings throughout the year) will also be part of the upcoming season.
Ruben Santiago-Hudson will serve as associate artist for the season, which will feature work from the Negro Ensemble Company's collective of writers, whose contributions have "helped shape America's theatrical heritage," according to a press announcement.
In a statement actor-director Santiago-Hudson said, "The Historic Negro Ensemble Company made an incredible impact on the landscape of American Theatre for over three decades and many of the most accomplished African Americans actors of our day nurtured their crafts inside the huge body of work that was presented at NEC. This season at Signature Theatre we will celebrate some of the incredible writers that provided the plays and roles that many careers were propelled out of."
Founding artistic director Douglas Turner Ward commented, "Signature Theatre is to be commended for keeping alive the great artistic legacy of the historic Negro Ensemble Company. I am happy to assist in any way I can."
Signature's founding artistic director James Houghton added, "Signature Theatre Company's celebration of the historic Negro Ensemble Company is an exciting expansion of our mission to honor and celebrate writers. The extraordinary work of the NEC provides the opportunity to explore the body of work of a company that created a vital artistic home for playwrights. The NEC's contribution to the American theatrical canon is invaluable, and we look forward to revisiting some of their seminal works and engaging these wonderful writers and founding artistic director Douglas Turner Ward throughout the season. We also welcome Ruben Santiago-Hudson, who has a history with the NEC, as our associate artist for the year." Season details follow:
by Leslie Lee
Directed by Ruben Santiago-Hudson
Aug. 5-Sept. 28
"The struggles of three generations of the Edwards family collide over the course of one sweltering weekend in June. Gremmar, the family matriarch, looks back on her past and considers its legacy for her children and grandchildren as they confront the choices that will define their futures."
by Samm-Art Williams
Nov. 11, 2008-Jan. 4, 2009
"Leaving behind his family's farm in North Carolina, Cephus Miles seeks refuge and prosperity in the North. Three actors portray more than 25 characters over the course of Cephus's epic journey from adolescence to adulthood, spanning the 1950’s through the Vietnam War and Civil Rights eras."
by Charles Fuller
Directed by Stephen McKinley Henderson
March 3-April 19, 2009
"A random act of violence leaves Reuben Tate and his family questioning their friends and neighbors, but their once caring community has been scared into helpless silence. As young Zooman terrorizes the neighborhood from the shadows, Reuben makes a dangerous appeal which may tear their world apart."
Day of Absence
Written and directed by Douglas Turner Ward
"Signature returns to the roots of the Negro Ensemble Company with a special staged reading of Douglas Turner Ward's Day of Absence, the seminal 1965 play that inspired the founding of the NEC." Through the Signature Ticket Initiative, all regularly priced single tickets ($65) are underwritten and are available for $20 every performance for the entire season. The Signature Ticket Initiative continues through Signature's 20th Anniversary Season (2010-2011).
Subscriptions will go on sale in late April.
All productions will be performed at Signature Theatre Company's Peter Norton Space, located at 555 West 42nd Street (between 10th and 11th Avenues). For more information and tickets, visit signaturetheatre.org or call (212) 244-PLAY (7529).