James Houghton to Step Down at Signature Theatre

Gregory Constanzo
James Houghton

The founding artistic director will depart his post next year, after shepherding the leading off-Broadway company's 25th anniversary season.

After 25 years as the founding artistic director of Signature Theatre, James Houghton has announced he will step down next year, at the end of the prolific off-Broadway company's 2015-16 season.

The Signature won the Regional Theatre Tony Award in 2014, the first year in which that category was extended to include New York-based companies. 

During his tenure, Houghton has built the Signature into a leading national theater institution, with playwright residency programs and an extensive ticket subsidy initiative to promote affordable theater. In 2012, the company moved into new digs at the Pershing Square Signature Center, a Frank Gehry-designed live-entertainment complex housing three stages plus rehearsal space.

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The Signature has traditionally dedicated full seasons to the work of a living writer, developing lasting associations over the years with such playwrights as Edward Albee, Horton Foote, Tony Kushner, Sam Shepard, August Wilson, Athol Fugard, John Guare, Charles MeeDavid Henry Hwang, A.R. Gurney, Will Eno and Katori Hall

The lineup for the company's 25th anniversary season, beginning in the fall, has not yet been announced.

"Signature Theatre has come a long way since Jim founded the company almost 25 years ago, and is making smart, proactive moves to ensure the success of its next 25 years by cultivating the next generation of artistic leadership under Jim's close collaboration and support," said chairman Edward Norton.

Added president Kate Roche Hope: "Jim not only blazed the path for Signature's place in the New York theater world, but also created a singular home for playwrights and our community."

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Houghton was recently diagnosed with stomach cancer and is stepping down to devote more time to his health and family. He will continue his work as drama division director at the Juilliard School.

Signature has formed a committee to lead a national search for its next artistic director, scheduled to assume the role on July 1, 2016.