NEW YORK CITY: After 25 years at the helm, Signature Theatre Company founding artistic director James Houghton is resigning. The reason cited is a diagnosis of stomach cancer, according to a report in the New York Times.
Houghton will step down at the end of the 2015–16 season, with a replacement to be announced by this coming July. He plans continue to head the drama division at the Juilliard School.
Houghton founded the Off-Broadway theatre in 1991 in a tiny storefront in downtown Manhattan, with the goal of dedicating each season to multiple productions of a single playwright. These have included Romulus Linney, Adrienne Kennedy, Sam Shepard, Edward Albee, John Guare, Tony Kushner, Maria Irene Fornes, Arthur Miller, Paula Vogel, David Henry Hwang and August Wilson.
Houghton led the theatre’s move uptown to west 42nd street. Then, in 2012, Signature opened the $66 million Pershing Square Signature Center, a three-theatre complex, designed by Frank Gehry, and Houghton expanded the theatre’s mission to include ongoing residencies by multiple playwrights.
In a statement, 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.”
Added actor Edward Norton—chairman of Signature’s board, who acted in some of its early seasons downtown—in a statement: “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.”
Next season will be the theatre’s 25th; the slate of plays is not yet announced. American Theatre has reached out to Houghton for a comment.