Signature Theatre Founding Artistic Director to Step Down

by Naomi Crews

Search for new Artistic Director starts as founding AD James Houghton steps down from Signature Theatre after 2015-16 25th Anniversary Season

James Houghton will step down after the 2015-16 25th anniversary season for health reasons. 

Signature Theatre Announces Founding Artistic Director James Houghton To Step Down After 2015-16 25th Anniversary Season

National Search for New Artistic Director Begins

Signature Theatre Board Chairman Edward Norton and Board President Kate Roche Hope announced today that Founding Artistic Director James Houghton will step down next year at the end of the 2015-16 25th Anniversary Season. Signature has formed a search committee to lead a national search for its next Artistic Director, who it will welcome by July 1, 2016. 

Under James Houghton’s leadership as Founding Artistic Director, Signature Theatre has become one of the country’s preeminent theatre companies. Signature was the first company to dedicate a full season to a living writer’s body of work, and in the past 25 years has hosted a diverse roster of some of the theatre’s most exciting and accomplished playwrights. The company has since launched two additional residency programs, as well as the Signature Ticket Initiative, its groundbreaking ticket subsidy program. In 2012 Signature opened The Pershing Square Signature Center, the largest new theatre center in New York City in nearly 50 years, and was recognized in 2014 with the Regional Theatre Tony Award for its unique mission and outstanding body of work. Houghton has worked closely with the Board of Trustees to identify a clear path toward securing a thoughtful and smooth transition to the next phase in the company’s future.

Founding Artistic Director James Houghton said, “It has been a privilege beyond measure to work with the extraordinary writers, artists, staff, trustees, and visionary supporters, past and present, that have all defined Signature with an unparalleled passion and fortitude. I look forward to working with them all over this next year as we move into this next exciting chapter. A bright future lies ahead.”

Chairman Edward Norton said, “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. Jim has been an incredible leader with remarkable vision, and he proactively designed a plan for the company to grow and thrive for the long haul. The wonderful thing about Signature is that, as much as Jim has defined and personified the spirit of the company, our success has ultimately been driven by the strength and uniqueness of the underlying mission.”

President Kate Roche Hope said, “We are filled with profound gratitude for Jim's extraordinary vision and leadership over the past 25 years. Jim not only blazed the path for Signature's unique place in the New York theatre world, but also created a singular home for playwrights and our community. Together with our artists, staff and Board, we are excited for the endless potential that lies ahead for Signature Theatre and The Pershing Square Signature Center.”

Houghton was recently diagnosed with stomach cancer and will be attending to his health and family. He will continue his work as the Richard Rodgers Director of the Drama Division at the Juilliard School.