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Signature Theatre has settled on a successor to founding artistic director James Houghton, who will step down in June after 25 years.
Effective July 1, Paige Evans will take on the new role, heading up one of off-Broadway’s most respected companies after guiding Lincoln Center Theater’s emerging artists program, LCT3, since its inception in 2008.
A magnet for top directing and acting talent as well as a nurturing hub for playwrights both upcoming and established, Signature has been housed since the 2011-12 theater season in the Pershing Square Signature Center, a multistage complex on West 42nd Street, designed by Frank Gehry.
The company runs a Residency One Program, which celebrates a single playwright with multiple productions over the course of each season, as well as a Legacy Program to support the subsequent work of those playwrights. More recently, Signature introduced Residency Five, which features early- and mid-career playwrights.
Among dramatists whose work has been memorably produced at Signature over the years are August Wilson, Horton Foote, Tony Kushner, Edward Albee, David Henry Hwang, Athol Fugard and Sam Shepard. Signature’s recent production of Annie Baker’s John made the Best of 2015 lists of a number of publications, including The Hollywood Reporter.
The company’s groundbreaking Signature Ticket initiative keeps the price of all seats to the initially scheduled run of each production to $25, less than a third of the average price for a top-tier off-Broadway theater. In 2014, Signature became the first New York City-based theater to receive the Regional Theatre Tony Award, following a change in the qualifying rules for that honor.
“Jim Houghton built Signature Theatre around the unique mission of giving playwrights a platform for their entire body of work, while also revolutionizing the way that access to theater for all people is made possible through the affordable ticket initiative,” Signature chairman Edward Norton said in a statement. “Over 25 years, he grew Signature into one of the great theaters in America. Now Signature is making smart, proactive moves to incubate the success of its next 25 years by cultivating the next generation of artistic leadership.”
Under Evans’ helm, LCT3 has produced the New York premieres of plays including Amy Herzog’s 4000 Miles, David Adjmi’s Stunning and Ayad Akhtar’s Disgraced, which went on to win the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and transfer to Broadway.
The announcement of Evans’ hire concludes a national search that has been under way since last spring, when Houghton confirmed he was stepping down after being diagnosed with stomach cancer. Evans, 53, will work alongside Signature’s executive director, Erika Mallin. Houghton will remain connected with Signature as the company’s founder; he will continue to serve as director of the drama division at the Juilliard School, a position he has held since 2006.
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