Master Harold Playwright Athol Fugard Is NYC Signature's Resident Playwright for 2012

By Kenneth Jones
09 Jun 2011

Athol Fugard
Athol Fugard

Signature Theatre Company's inaugural season at its massive new Manhattan home, Signature Center, will focus on the work of South African playwright Athol Fugard, billing the writer as its "Residency One" playwright.

"Residency One" is the new branding of Signature's "core one-year playwright-in-residence program that produces a series of plays from the body of work of one accomplished writer." This has been the Off-Broadway's company's mission from its founding.

Throughout the coming season, "Signature will explore the works of Fugard, the South African playwright, director and actor," who is getting a special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement at the Tony Awards on June 12.

Signature Center is a new 74,000-square-foot facility at 480 W. 42nd Street near 10th Avenue, designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Frank Gehry and "featuring three theatres, two rehearsal spaces and administrative offices all on one level and connected by a shared lobby with a café and bookstore." Signature Center will serve as Signature Theatre Company's permanent home and will open in February 2012.



Titles, dates and directors for the Athol Fugard series will be announced at a later date. Tony Kushner's The Illusion is the last Signature show at the Peter Norton Space. There will be no Signature programming between the end of The Illusion and the opening of Signature Center in 2012. 

"Signature is honored to host Athol Fugard as our inaugural Residency One Playwright and our first international Playwright-in-Residence," Signature's founding artistic director James Houghton said in a statement June 9. "Athol is a writer of astounding courage and humanity, which is evident in his breathtaking body of work that spans over fifty years. We look forward to presenting a wide breadth of that work, from his early to his latest plays, and we look forward to experiencing his rich and deep history at our new Center…"

"A season at Signature? What an extraordinary opportunity to reflect on 50 years of playwriting," Fugard said in a statement. "I'm thrilled to be among the first resident playwrights at Signature's very exciting new home."

As previously announced, Signature Center "will feature three unique programs: the continuation of Residency One, the program Signature Theatre Company is best known for, which is a one-year residency for a playwright with a major body of work; the expansion of the Legacy Program, which is a homecoming for past Signature Playwrights-in-Residence with a production of a premiere or signature play; and the introduction of Residency Five, which will encourage the creation of a body of work by guaranteeing multiple playwrights three productions over the course of a five-year residency. These three programs combined will allow Signature to produce up to nine shows a year and provide an artistic home for up to eleven playwrights each season."

The Legacy Program and Residency Five playwrights will be announced at a later date.

Fugard has been working in the theatre as a playwright, director and actor in South Africa, England and the United States for over 50 years. In November he was the inaugural Humanitas Visiting Professor of Drama at Oxford University. His latest play The Bird Watchers premiered this year at The Fugard Theatre in Cape Town. Last year The Train Driver, featuring Sean Taylor and Owen Sejake, transferred to The Hampstead Theatre in London for a critically acclaimed run. His plays include No-Good Friday, Nongogo, Blood Knot, Hello and Goodbye, People are Living, There, Boesman and Lena, Statements After an Arrest Under the Immorality Act, Sizwe Banzi is Dead, Dimetos, The Island, A Lesson From Aloes, "Master Harold"…and the Boys, The Road to Mecca, A Place With the Pigs, My Children! My Africa!, Playland, Valley Song, The Captain's Tiger, Sorrows and Rejoicings, Exits and Entrances, Victory and Coming Home.

For more information, visit signaturetheatre.org.