PLAYBILL.COM'S BRIEF ENCOUNTER With James Houghton, Artistic Director of Signature Theatre Company

By Robert Simonson
11 Feb 2012


Will Eno, one of the Residency Five playwrights.
photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

One of your three new theatres is named after Romulus Linney. He was the first playwright to be given a Signature season.
JH: Romulus inspired this entire company. I had worked with him as a young actor. He was the first living writer I had ever worked with. He really inspired me. The realization I had at the end of the day was that we, as a community, are coming together to share these stories and the stories begin with that writer.

You now have three theatres. How large will a regular Signature season now be?
JH: We'll be producing nine plays a year. We've got three [plays] in each of those three programs I mentioned. If you look at a five-year span of programs, we'll be doing 45 plays. Of the 45, 35 of them will be new. They'll be coming from a host of 25 writers. So you can see how the community at the center builds relatively quickly. Each year we'll be adding another single-year residency in Residency One. And I'm going to be incrementally adding people to Residency Five, so there will be a rotation.

How many writers will be part of Residency Five at any given time?
JH: There'll be an average of seven total writers in the Residency Five group. Once you're part of this family, you're part of it forever, if you want to be. It's all integrated.

The idea of community and family does seem to be central to Signature, and particularly to the new theatre center.
JH: At the end of the day, all these residencies and all this work leads up to a relationship. With that relationship, the goal is to provide context and support. I think we're doing that. These programs don't exist anywhere else. We're providing health insurance. From my perspective, if, as an artist, you've got insurance and some security for the next five years, the white noise goes away. You're not doing this reading at this place, and doing another across the country. All that noise goes away. The writers are here. They know their work will be produced. They know we'll be sympathetic to their process and we're suited to their process. It's designed to their need, not our need.

Read the feature in which Houghton discusses Signature's new home.