Wednesday, January 23, 2008


Posted by Marianne Miller, Management Fellow, January 23, 2008

(Subscribers, this one’s for you)

I’ll be honest. Bravo’s top-of-the-line editing skills suck me into every reality competition show they’ve ever done, whether it be about clothes, cooking, or carving soap (not out to market yet, but my faith in Bravo means it’s a possibility).

I was excited when the Signature heard of the newest restaurant on the block: Dave Martin’s (yes ladies and gentlemen, Season 1 of Bravo’s “Top Chef!”) Crave on 42nd (between 11th and 12th). Signature exchanged ideas with Dave and added Crave on 42nd to our subscriber benefits. Subscribers, you can now get 10% off all food purchases (not including the Pre-Fixe menu, but that was also created with you in mind!).

I just had to try it out. Andrew, my boyfriend, and I snuggled down into the comfy couch-like seating in the corner of the restaurant and began quite the whirlwind of a journey. We picked through the world-wide wine list, both settling on a Pinot Noir. Andrew is vegetarian (with vegan-like qualities), and it’s often quite the task to find something on the menu he would enjoy to eat. Not a problem here! We started off with the “Top Chef” Season One dish of Dave’s Black Truffle Mac ‘n’ Cheese. Andrew went on to have the Mascarpone and Green Apple Ravioli, a taste that “blew his mind.” I quite enjoyed my meat, trying the Hoisin and Cider Pork Tenderloin. This dish came with a side of mashed potatoes even my very Southern grandmother would approve of. We finished the meal off with Erika’s Chocolate Addiction (Erika and I would be best friends, I feel), which was dressed with vanilla cream anglaise. I was delighted with the food, and absolutely stuffed!

Best of all, Dave and his staff are some of the hardest-working, most generous people in the city. They came around to every table in the restaurant to check in and see how the evening was progressing. Many patrons wanted pictures with Dave, and he granted each request with a smile. The food had integrity, which rounded the evening off in just the right way. I’m happy to welcome their business into Signature’s family, and I hope each one of you will go and experience an ingenious menu and a lovely dining experience at Crave on 42nd.


Posted by Mike Trerotola, Marketing Intern, January 23, 2008

Welcome to Signature Theatre Company’s new blog! My name is Mike Trerotola and I am the new Marketing Intern for Signature. I’m really excited to start working for second half of the Chuck Mee season at Signature.

Over the next couple of months I will be posting on the blog about my time at Signature. Marianne Miller, Management Fellow at Signature, will also be joining us and posting her own blog stuff every now and then. I hope you find this blog entertaining and enjoyable to read.

Any of the previous posts were originally posted on Signature's website.

If you have any questions/comments/concerns/suggestions/etc., please email me at Happy blogging!


Originally Posted by Marianne Miller, Management Fellow, January 10, 2008

"Can I really just take a pair of flip-flops from the wall?!"
Starving young artists are often over-zealous about free stuff.
"Yep," Paul Ziemer, Production Manager, replied, motioning to the vendor wall of the set. I was ecstatic. I bounded up the stairs of the theatre and found a pair of sea-green flip flops, size 38 (I didn't realize I had feet that big), that were perfect for me. The joy of Charles Mee's Queens Boulevard is certainly infectious.

It's always strange when a show ends, especially when it's a show that packed as much energy as Queens Boulevard. Each element of the production only heaped on more and more life and vitality to what was already a dynamic piece of work (Bravo, Mr. Mee). Every cast member brought his or her own history, culture, and life story to the table, and what resulted was a show that was chaotic, exhilarating, and just downright fun. The closing night audience on Sunday evening displayed this exuberance. Patrons (a whole list of VIPs, family, and friends) whooped, hollered, clapped, and laughed longer than any other audience. The momentum of the piece was unstoppable.

Queens Boulevard was a production that enjoyed artistic progression. Playwright, Director, and actors tinkered and toyed with the humor of the play, adding a Metrocard bit during the preview period. Crew members and designers alike slaved over the solution to the paper flowers that fell from the Queens sky (perhaps a less heavenly-seeming project for those involved). The production was always growing and changing, and even when the show was officially opened, actors continued to explore the journey of their characters. What resulted on Closing Night was only evidence of long hours and hard work.

The run of Queens Boulevard ended with a wonderful speech from Jim Houghton and more celebration of life (with beer, pizza, and new flip-flops of course). There was no better way to end the run of such a delightful piece of work.


Originally Posted by Marianne Miller, Management Fellow, January 3, 2008

No doubt it's hard to drag your feet back to work after such amazing celebration and conviviality during the holidays. Not so much at the Signature Theatre Company! My first outing in New York after returning from my visit in my homeland (Kentucky!) was to the Signature to see Queens Boulevard with my boyfriend. He loved it, I had a great time, and we rang in the New Year with some excellent theatre. That's the way to do it!

The Sig has certainly had a fantastic year. With reverence, we ended the August Wilson Series, celebrating a great man, his work, and a true reach to the city of New York with our $15 TimeWarner ticket initiative. The August Wilson Series certainly didn't go without notice: Entertainment Weekly chose King Hedley as a top ten play of 2007! The recognition and enjoyment didn't stop there. David Bell, blogger extraordinaire, brought the voice of the people to light with his entries about the best, worst, and favorites of 2007. I am happy to say the Signature Theatre Company walked away with two awards: Favorite Off-Broadway play (Iphigenia 2.0 by Charles Mee), and my personal favorite: Hottest Moment! Also from Charles Mee's phenomenal Iphigenia 2.0, the soldiers claimed the 'Hottest Moment' prize for their testosterone-filled, fatigue-stripping dance (I must admit, one of my favorites of the year as well!) In August 2007, Charles Mee steered the theatre in New York in a new direction. Challenging to audiences, certainly. Brave, stunning, and ingenious art, absolutely.

We look with excitement towards what is to come for the remainder of our Charles Mee Series and the advent of our NEC season in 2008, but with a nod to the work done here in 2007. There's certainly no dragging of feet here. Happy New Year!


Originally Posted by Edward Freeman, Development Intern, December 20, 2007

Queens Boulevard (the musical) is a play that amalgamates a multitude cultures, assimilating their different customs, their different values, their different fashions and, of course, their different languages. At one moment in the show, a female actor uses sign language to communicate with her character’s ailing husband, and for that one moment, the hard of hearing audience members at the matinee this past Saturday focused on the action instead of the open caption screen. Finally the actors were speaking their language.

The open caption performance of Queens Boulevard (the musical) happened last Saturday. Those who have seen the show will know that the set includes several screens on which text that interprets foreign language is projected. Saturday’s performance, however, included one more screen (that looked actually like part of the set) that displayed text of the entire production for the hard of hearing. It functioned the way the closed caption subtitles on television do, giving the opportunity for everyone to understand the dialogue clearly.

Signature presents two open caption shows per season (the last one was during Iphigenia 2.0). Development works closely with the Marketing and Artistic Departments to plan the production, acting as a contact, liaison, and final reporter for David Chu (the man who captions the performance), while Marketing advertises the event and Artistic interprets a whole new script, tailored specifically for David and his clientele.

When I was a kid, I was enthralled with the closed captions on television. My eye still focuses on them whenever the function is turned on at a bar or the gym, even when I can hear the television clearly, causing me to lose the delivery of the action. Throughout the whole performance this past Saturday, the hard of hearing audience members had to focus on the open caption screen, so they could follow the story. But for that one moment in the show, while the rest of the audience focused its attention on the subtitles screen, the hard of hearing audience was able to capture the beauty and profundity of a moment in a hospital as acted by Marsha Stephanie Blake and Demosthenes Chrysan.


Originally Posted by Adam Wright, Production Intern, December 13, 2007

Adam Wright is a student at UNC Chapel Hill who spent the fall working with Signature Theatre Company as the Production Intern. Upon completing his internship he sent out an email to the entire staff of Signature to share with us his thanks for the experience he had here as an intern:

Dear Friends,

As I will soon be working on my honors thesis in creative writing, Signature's mission to allow a single playwright to hone and shape an entire season was of particular inspiration to me. As a result, once I knew I would be coming to NYC this semester, I immediately let my professor know that I wanted my internship to be with this company. Thankfully, I am so proud to say that my experience here has been everything I hoped it would be. Jim, your energy and commitment to this company shines through every individual and project here, and I am so thankful to have worked in an environment driven by your ongoing commitment to honor the written word. Knowing little about the production world beforehand, it was such a treat to start my first week as Queens Blvd. was in the midst of wrapping up pre-production talks and to end my final weeks here celebrating at our opening night part - it was pleasure working on the entire process of this show, and as result, I have learned so much more than I would ever have expected. Thanks to you all, especially to Paul, who I find to be one of the committed and selfless men I've had the pleasure to work with.

Look for a postcard from me this summer - I found out today I received a $6,500 grant from UNC to study the art of storytelling across the UK! So, appropriately, here's to you all who work so hard to shape the experience of so many individual storytellers year-round. The end of something is always the beginning of another...



Originally Posted by Marianne Miller, Company Management Intern, December 6, 2007

After an epic preview period that left actors, designers, staff, and crew somewhat exhausted, the long tweaking period Queens Boulevard had to endure was well worth the time!

The staff worked all day on Monday to prepare for the Opening Night. Our Development Department prepared the list of guests. Sara Danielsen and I gathered the opening night gifts (#7 line key chains-very Queens, really) and the flowers for the actors, bathrooms, and lobby. All fell well into place as "Happy Opening!" was the resounding note in the office. We prepared a big show for a big night!

Meanwhile, actors prepared for their ninth (!!!) performance of the week. Not a single actor looked down or tired, however, upon entering the theatre. The members of the large and very diverse cast were all smiles as they prepared for the celebration of their hard work. There was a tangible sense of eagerness, nervousness, and excitement that I enjoyed sharing. Loads of gifts came in for each actor, and I happily placed them backstage. In the midst of the holiday season, I couldn't help but draw the festive parallels.

An entire list of VIPs poured into the theatre, packing the house and adding loads of energy to the performance. The men and women made their entrances, and the entire theatre lit up! The transformation was fantastic, and I was so enthralled, I stood at the top of the stairs for over half the show. Delighted by the changes Chuck, Davis, the designers, and the cast had made throughout the process, I was drawn in to see what new aspects of the show appeared. This performance was certainly different from that which I had experienced during tech rehearsals!

The company enjoyed a smooth performance, followed by recognition of top VIPs present, including (but not limited to) Lee Blessing, Romulus Linney, Luis Castro, Charles Weldon, Oskar Eustis, Kate Mulgrew and many others. I was absolutely honored to be in their company. A well-attended party followed, and I maneuvered around large groups of congregating people to enjoy the excellent food and company.

Although the process was long, the product was well worth it. The evening was a fantastic success that was well deserved by all who placed their love and energy into the show. To all sharing in the success of Queens Boulevard: Congratulations!


Orginally Posted by Chris Fuller, Box Office Manager, November 29, 2007

Peter with his brand new century cycle's

Happy Holidays!

All of you who have been to a show at Signature Theatre must be familiar with our bookstore!?!? We carry a large assortment of plays published by former Playwrights-in-Residence. Most of the plays we sell are either the Sam French acting copy of a script or a compilation of single artist's work and we even sell a couple of the Humana Festival Anthologies that feature our Alumni. We recently sent around our second edition of the Signature E-Newsletter announcing the publication of a box set of August Wilson's Century Cycle. The asking price of the set is a little out of line with the usual fare on the shelves at the Peter Norton Space so we were excited about the potential interest from our audience.

The day after the eblast went out we got a call from Signature patron Peter Bay. He had his sights set on two collections one to be given as a gift and the other for his own library. Peter told us about how he saw eight of the ten century cycle plays last season, three of which he enjoyed at Signature Theatre. The gift of the box set was for a friend who had accompanied him to many of Wilson's shows over the past year. It is wonderful to see the enthusiasm generated during the August Wilson season has stayed with people. I think Peter had a great gift idea for Hannukah, Christmas, Kwanza or maybe just a selfish indulgence! August Wilson's Century Cycle in a hardbound collector's set. Get one before they are gone!


Originally Posted by Siobhan Lockhart, Artisitic Intern, November 22, 2007

Actress Heather McComb, Actor James Van Der Beek and Signature Founding Artistic Director James Houghton

This past Sunday, November 18, Signature Theatre Company celebrated (what is to become a regular ritual for all Signature productions) its second Alumni Night. The centerpiece of course was that evening's performance of Charles Mee's Queens Boulevard (the musical).

I arrived at the theater about an hour before the show, prepared for an exciting evening with so many past Signature playwrights, directors, actors, designers, technicians, and staff attending--but I really had no idea what a party it would become. With an ideal vantage point from the beginning, sitting behind a table near the entrance of the theater with Marianne (the company management intern), we tried (mostly in vain) to get all of the alums to fill out name tags. We were soon aware that it would be a near impossible task to get people over to our table when everywhere you turned everyone arriving wanted to greet, hug, and catch up with everyone else. Former Signature staff and interns sought out their old colleagues and I immediately noticed past Playwright-in-Residence, Bill Irwin. A large contingency from the cast of Charles Mee's Iphigenia 2.0 all seemed delighted to come and cheer on the current group of actors taking the stage that the Iphigenia 2.0 cast had most recently vacated.

There was a definite eagerness and anticipation in the crowd gathering. Sensing that it could be a special performance night I decided to go watch the show, promising Sara, the artistic assistant, that I would return to help the staff during the post-show cocktail party. I had sat in on some rehearsals and seen the first preview, but I was keen to see the show in front of a crowd that was shaping up to be quite lively and receptive. (Personally, I think I made the right choice!)

The energy of the show was fantastic. Living up to the previous Alumni Night crowd (described in Sara's blog), it was one of the warmest, most enthusiastic audiences of a show I have ever seen. It reminded me of doing shows in high school - not, mind you, in quality - it just felt like everyone there was rooting for their "classmates" on stage. And it certainly rubbed off on the cast who could not have seemed more into the show. So much so that when they were tested with some prop malfunctions and even a smoke alarm that briefly stopped the show, their comedic ad-libbing skills proved to be at their sharpest and most playful.

It was an exhilarating performance, but the fun wasn't going to end there. After Jim Houghton, Founding Artistic Director's welcoming remarks the cocktail party began. Congratulations to Sara for putting together a wonderful spread of food. The festivities went on into the night, Queens Boulevard (the musical) cast, creative team, and production staff now mingling amongst the crowd of alumni and staff. People did not seem to want to leave, but eventually we did run out of booze and food, and well, it was a Sunday. But overall, a successful night, a wonderful performance, and an event that will secure "Signature Alumni Night" its place -for shows and years to come-as the party not to be missed.


Originally Posted by Marianne Miller, Company Management Intern, November 9, 2007

Extensive, numerous, and challenging tech cues.
Ever-developing budget alterations.

All of these situations posed a genuine threat to the Company in successfully preparing Signature's current show, Queens Boulevard (the musical) for an audience. Challenges are not new to the Signature Theatre Company, however, and in genuine Signature form, each and every new obstacle was met with tenacity and determination, and opening preview was a delightful and fun-filled evening.

The entire staff here at the Sig threw all of our weight behind helping the cast, crew, and designers to get the show up and running. One of the most memorable events of the evening of Opening Preview (which was even joked about during a subsequent staff meeting!) was watching my supervisor and our General Manager, Mr. Adam Bernstein, vacuum the front lobby before the show. The time-crunch demanded that everyone pitched in.

Our hard work paid off. Pre-show, a nervous and excited energy permeated the air. Patrons were clearly delighted upon entering the transformed house at the Peter Norton Space-One can't help but to develop a visually-stimulated high after being inundated with neon lights, bright decorations, and an extraordinary set. Actors passed out wedding reception jellies to and greeted the incoming audience. From the beginning, one could tell this would be a very different theatre experience.

Ultimately, this experience is one that would not have been possible had it not been for the fact that the Signature Theatre Company works as family. We face these challenges with the security that we all work for each other and for the greater good of the company.

Despite the setbacks, all is well. The lights went black at the end of Opening Preview, and we all breathed a sign of relief. We have a fantastic show to prove we can handle even the toughest of obstacles.


Originally Posted by Jennifer Taylor, Marketing Associate, November 1, 2007

Everyone at Signature has been very busy getting Queens Boulevard (the musical) ready to begin previews this Tuesday, November 6th. Charles Mee and Davis McCallum (the playwright and director) were kind enough to take some time out of their very busy rehearsal schedule to sit down with us for an interview so that we could give you some insight into the play.

CLICK HERE to check out the interview!


Originally Posted by Adam Wright, Production Management Intern, October 25, 2007

Chuck Mee’s Queens Boulevard demands that one of New York’s most colorful and diverse neighborhoods be somehow squashed down and thrown on stage, taking audience’s on a topsy-turvy journey through karaoke bars, bathhouses, underground clubs, and everything in between. As you can imagine, creating an accurate and lively representation of such a place has been no easy feat. So as one of the largest scenic designs Signature has yet to undertake in its 17-year history, set designer Mimi Lien and production manager Paul Ziemer should be commended for all the dedicated and exhausting work they have put into such an epic project. Finally, with load-in underway at the Peter Norton Space, Lien’s vibrantly bold, intricately detailed vision of Queens has finally begun to take shape, and the result, even in its half-finished state, is still, quite simply, stunning.

I missed out on load-out for Iphigenia 2.0, but as punishment I got to rip down all the FHM and Maxim girls that blanketed the USR walls by hand. (The new Radiohead came out the day before, so I jammed out on my iPod and made the most of the good music and the cute girls and it actually wasn’t all that bad.) Paul and I readied ourselves for the chaos to come, but fortunately we offered our theatre space to UCSD graduate showcase before load-in, so we had at least had one day of calm before the storm was to arrive. Shortly afterwards painters came in and began transforming the boards into pavement and pedestrian walkways, and soon enough, hoards of neon signs and steel beams began pouring in. The first few days of last week were spent getting up the walls of the set and Queens seemed to be growing into its own.

However, nothing could have prepared me for what awaited in the space after my weekend off. Monday I arrived at the theatre to be greeted with a giant subway highline running across stage, over house right and straight into our sound booth. The effect produced a reaction of “That’s cool” from what I got to see on Mimi’s model, but in person the piece knocks the wind out of you with its grand presence. And though, like most all other aspects of the set, the highline has yet to be painted and properly safety-proofed, but one can be assured that Queens Boulevard is going to be nothing like you’ve ever seen before.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008


Originally Posted by Ed Iskandar, Artistic Intern, October 18, 2007

Davis McCallum, Charles Mee and James Houghton

The first day of any rehearsal process is (quite appropriately, given the play at hand) like the wedding day of an arranged marriage. The to-be-weds have been introduced by their respective parents (often with the intervention of a few eager matchmakers), decided they like each other enough to go ahead, and on the agreed-upon day, they marry. The rehearsal process that follows is an anxiety-ridden, much hoped-for conception, followed by a lightning-speed pregnancy, and, on the first preview, the audience is witness to the delivery of a new baby. The previews follow the child's first words and steps, through an accelerated education, and eventually to the coming out party that is opening night, after which it is left alone to grow, mature and fend for itself through the rest of its performance run.

At Signature, the rituals that accompany the first day of rehearsal are as detailed as any wedding an imaginative bride might plan. The entire staff of the company takes the day off to attend the first rehearsal, meet the new company, and hear the play that we are working to support. Among the many exciting things about Queens Boulevard (the musical), is that it is a World Premiere steeped in the tradition of Kathakali, an Eastern theatrical form thoroughly underexposed in Western production. Mr. Mee has taken a traditional Kathakali play, The Flower of Good Fortune, and given it a contemporary spin in the same way that his Iphigenia 2.0 is a modern meditation on Greek tragedy. His inexhaustible supply of creative energy lights up the rehearsal room, which is somewhat astonishing given that Iphigenia 2.0 closed its sold out run only two nights previously, and his Hotel Cassiopeia would open later that same day at BAM.

The wary informal meet 'n greet while the company slowly gathers gives way to the Artistic Director's address, contextualizing the production within the season. And then, anxiously scrutinized by the assembled company, the Director delivers his opening address and the cast speaks the words of the text aloud for the first time, after which, designers unveil their vision of the play that has been rendered concrete in the months of pre-production and preparation that precede rehearsal.

The boldness and the uncertainty of a group of actors encountering for the first time the text on the page and the text in live space as the very first impression of the play is being created are always astonishing, but it is difficult to imagine a more diverse company trying to simultaneously create a more complex common language together. The thrill and surprise of the room is palpable at moments of unexpected depth in a simple comic scene, or moments of hilarity in an otherwise serious encounter. The play comes to life for the first time, in a fashion so electric and exciting that often, a rehearsal process is described as the process of reigniting the play toward the uncontrived and unadorned reactions of the first read-through. Off we go!


Originally Posted by Marianne Miller, Company Management Intern, October 11, 2007

Friends, family, loved ones, and Signature fans alike joyously rushed out of the performance of Iphigenia 2.0 on Sunday evening, October 7th, 2007. One observing might assume the rush was for the awaiting Brooklyn Brown, Brooklyn Lager, and Amstel Light in the lobby (and indeed, we had to fight a few guests off until the party officially began). Truly, however, the exuberant rush came from the final exhilarating performance of the first show in the Charles (or Chuck, as we colloquially refer to him) Mee Series at the Signature Theatre Company-Iphigenia 2.0.

As the Company Management Intern, I was absolutely blessed to work next to these actors in their final moments of this process. I shared conversation over a Pret-A-Manger banana nut muffin with Louisa Krause (a favorite pastime of ours) right before she warmed up for the final performance. She was all smiles mixed with a hint of nostalgia for the total process of the show. We talked about what came next for the young actress. She was hopeful for what would follow, and I was reminded that Iphigenia 2.0 is certainly not the last any of us will see of these phenomenally talented people. She then scurried off to put on her ballet shoes-the excitement for the evening had begun!

The house packed in quickly, and the show finished strong with a dynamic standing ovation, complete with daisy throwing by Sara Danielsen and me (I pat myself on the back-no injuries to the cast during this carousing, so to speak). Jim Houghton, Artistic Director, recognized a few very important constituents to the process: the designers and crew were praised profusely, director Tina Landau shyly stood up to welcome applause, the cast beamed at Jim's commendations, and Chuck Mee gave a quiet smile as the seated audience erupted to show their support for this man and the work he has completed thus far on Signature's stage.

Iphigenia 2.0 had, without a doubt, a glorious run. From the beginning stages of casting, designing, and rehearsal to the pizza, salad, and general communion of artists in the lobby after the final show, the entire artistic endeavor stayed true to a genuine execution of Charles Mee's first show of the season. The one-week extension attested to the powerful voice Iphigenia 2.0 had for its audiences.

After all the Brooklyn Lager, Brooklyn Brown, and Amstel Light had been put away and the lights turned out, the excitement and energy of the artists and their guests lingered. Without a doubt, our season has begun!


Originally Posted by Sara Danielsen, Artistic Assistant, October 4, 2007

Signature Alumni
Actors from the Wilson Season

What would happen if you took a random sampling of all of the people you met in each year of your life and invited them to a big party? Would they have anything in common? Would they know what to say to each other? Would the idea of hosting all those people from different parts of your world give you a conniption? Well, the Signature took that chance and threw that party this Sunday. And much to my relief, the first ever Signature Alumni Night was by all reports a huge success.

Let's go back a few months. Jim Houghton, the Signature's Founding Artistic Director, had been talking for a while about wanting to set aside one performance in each of the Signature's runs as a night for former Signature artists and staff to come together and see the show; a homecoming night of sorts, and a chance to make connections between all of the amazing people who've worked here over the past sixteen plus years. As the new Artistic Assistant, Alumni Night was handed over to me as my first project. After setting the date during the run of Iphigenia 2.0, my first big task was gathering email addresses for all of the people who'd ever worked at Signature (which brought me face to face with the fact that in 1991, the only people who had email addresses were working for the Defense Department). After we sent out an email invitation to as many people as I could track down, Marianne, the Company Management Intern, and I sat down with old copies of the contact sheets and started making phone calls. We had some charming conversations with past company members. We also left a lot of messages. I white-knuckled my way through my message on Parker Posey's voice mail. (She is one of my favorite actresses, but have you seen Dazed and Confused? The idea of actually reaching her on her cell phone made me a little nervous.) As we moved further and further into the past, the "disconnected" and "no longer at this number" messages became more and more frequent. All in all we reached out to over 700 people, which is only a fraction of the people who'd worked with Signature over the years but a good start for our first party.

The responses started coming in immediately. There were lots of people who couldn't attend because they were working out of town or in other shows, but they sent their congratulations and love to Jim and Signature. By the Friday before the event we had a full house, and I had to sit down with the seating chart and figure out where to seat everyone. Imagine the most complicated dinner table you've ever had to arrange. Do you seat all of the directors next to each other, or is it better to sit them with the designers they've worked with? Will the stage managers be shy? (Not at all as it turns out.) Should you sprinkle the actors amongst the house or seat them by cast? Who gets to sit next to Chuck? I dropped the seating chart off at the box office on Friday night with my fingers crossed. As it turns out, I shouldn't have worried about any of it. Once we managed to get the chatty crowd into the house and seated, they turned out to be the best, most enthusiastic audience a theatre could ask for. The Iphigenia 2.0 cast, who'd already had a matinee that afternoon and would have been justified in being a little low energy at the end of the week, responded to the liveliness of the crowd and gave a fabulous performance. Even a shower of flour over the first two rows in the final scene didn't dampen anyone's enthusiasm.

After the curtain call, Jim got up to welcome everyone to Alumni Night and to introduce Chuck. The audience gave Chuck a rousing ovation that went on for so long that witnesses say Chuck may have blushed a little. Everyone spilled out into the lobby for wine and snacks and more talk. I was working at the bar, so for a little while it was all a blur of handing out wine and champagne. Every time I looked up however, a new cluster of people were in front of me hugging and laughing and gossiping. I heard some great stories about the first production in the Peter Norton space. People who knew each other in different contexts realize that they had the Signature in common. Assistant designers and directors reconnected with their mentors and former interns passed on the word about their current projects.

As the evening wrapped up, people spilled out into the night still talking and finishing their last glasses of wine. The wardrobe crew staggered out from the theatre under the weight of the cake covered costumes ready to be sent to the dry cleaners before the final week of the run. I dragged the last bag of empty wine bottles out to curb happy with the event, conniption free and looking forward to the next Signature Alumni Night.

Thursday, January 17, 2008


Originally Posted by Sara Danielsen, Artistic Assistant, September 27, 2007

For two nights this week the cast of the Signature's opening play of the Chuck Mee season were in residence at the Guggenheim's Works and Process, bringing some noisy, messy, fabulous theatre to the Upper East Side. The Works and Process series is better known for its previews of significant dance companies, so it was difficult to guess what might be going through the minds of the Guggenheim patrons as Tom Nelis playing Agamemnon delivered his opening monologue on the ever expanding reach of an anxious empire. Chuck's play doesn't shy away from politics or implicit criticism of our current administration, and the opening monologue is an especially damning salvo to the politics of the right.

And then came the Macho Dance.

Which, of course, is preceded by the four actors playing the chorus of soldiers stripping down to their skivvies.

We're not at the ballet anymore, ladies and gentlemen of the Guggenheim.

The evening was not all shock and awe. Anne Bogart as the moderator led a fascinating conversation with Chuck and Tina Landau, the director of Iphigenia 2.0, on their working relationship and the creative process. Tina explained that for her the play isn't a thing that needs to be brought to life. "The text is one of many tracks, like in a piece of recorded music. We also have bodies, light, sound, and space to work with, and some third thing is created. I spend a lot of time busting the play open with the actors, creating an odd collage of the text and what the actors bring."

Both Anne and Tina had previously collaborated with Chuck, so the conversation was particularly intimate and revealing. Anne told Chuck that she heard he had been unable to write the play until his own daughters were grown up and out of the house. Chuck confirmed the story, explaining that he'd been given a stack of research materials on the story fifteen years earlier during rehearsals for Orestes 2.0, but couldn't face the idea of a father killing his daughter. The audience too, seemed particularly receptive to the family tragedy; they were riveted by the scene between Kate Mulgrew as Clytemnestra and Tom Nelis's Agamemnon.

Inevitably though, the politics of the piece were hard to ignore. An appreciative chuckle rippled through the audience when Chuck explained the choice to place the demand to sacrifice Iphigenia with the soldiers: "In a democracy it is the people to whom the politicians are answerable, not the gods."

Afterwards, as we stood in the beautiful Rotunda of the Guggenheim nibbling on fancy snacks and comparing notes on the evening, I still wondered what the Works and Process audience had made of the performances and the three speakers. It's the pain and privilege of theatre to never know if what you hear after a performance is polite applause or a group of people busy absorbing a new experience. I'm hoping for the latter.


Originally Posted by Ed Sylvanus Iskandar, Artistic Intern, September 20, 2007

With Iphigenia 2.0 nearing the end of its initial run, and gearing up for the extension, we are now looking ahead to Queens Boulevard - the musical. At the beginning of every Signature production, the Artistic Team (A Team, as we like to call it) produces a hefty binder of dramaturgical research that fleshes out the world of the play, its characters, and their preoccupations for the benefit of the production team of the new show. Inspired by an incredibly diverse range of sources, including Kottayam Tampuran's The Flower of Good Fortune, Homer's The Odyssey, Kalidasa's The Recognition of Shakuntala, James Joyce's Ulysses and the usual Meeist assortment of blogs, journals and news articles, Queens Boulevard - the musical uses the story of a new groom's impossible quest to find a Flower of Heaven for his bride as a structure to explore "The New New World," a series of plays in which Mr. Mee examines the interracial co-existence and pan-cultural fusion that he believes to be the natural condition of the society of today. (You learn this information after spending hours with the research binder, as I have!)

To augment the existing Queens Boulevard research for the mid-October start of rehearsals, A Team daytripped to Jackson Heights last Tuesday to scout the inspirations and locations of the play. Everything one assumes to be a New Yorker norm was arrestingly displaced: a lone Dunkin Donuts shop lost in a sea of ethnic bakeries and groceries, sari stores displaying their wares on mannequins that appear oddly Caucasian, a cheap lunch at a diner offering a buffet of curry, lassi and rice pudding with nary a burger or milkshake in sight. An extraordinary multi-lingual soundtrack accompanied the day's travels to a busy pan-cultural pre-school where parents waited in a cheerful gaggle to pick up their kids, an intimate Indian patisserie where tempers flared while customers haggled for discounts and personal care salons where manicures and pedicures were but two of a whole catalogue of services offered (other services ranged from bindi application to "monobrow separation"!).

In his essay Music, Movement and Text, Mr. Mee calls for a theatrical form that is more complex than the domestic psychodramas of Ibsen and Miller. He argues passionately that human existence and human understanding far exceed the tidy post-Freudian psychological conclusions dictated by what has become the normative mainstream theatrical experience. Life is more random, more imprecise, more enchanting than the inside of a living room, and Mr. Mee argues these ideas in a more thrillingly random, imprecise and enchanting arena than even that of the Greeks in Queens Boulevard. His vision of the theatre is the most compassionate of lenses to filter the melting pot of Queens toward distilling an understanding of what it feels like to be living in the world right now.

... we are asked to deal with reason and feeling head and heart
text and spectacle
amazement and wonder
precision and haziness
all at the same time
and this feels more like the complexity of life we all know
in our own lives ...

from Music, Movement and Text (Mee)

Get ready for an ethnic explosion when this passionate, colorful show hits the boards on November 6!


Originally Posted by Ed Sylvanus Iskandar, Artistic Intern, September 13, 2007

While Iphigenia 2.0 continues playing to packed houses and emphatic reviews, Signature Theatre Company has been busy exploring New York City. On September 10th, we joined the River to River Festival to present Fun and Games with Edward Albee, a screening of Mike Nichols's Oscar-winning debut film - the 1967 screen adaptation ofWho's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? as filtered through the lens of an intimate conversation between Jim Houghton and the master playwright himself.

Mr. Albee recounted aspects of an extraordinary stage-to-screen process in which famed screenwriter Ernest Lehman (the film's producer) hired himself to write the screenplay containing only two deviations from the original play. Mr. Albee said with understatement that he "preferred' a rough cut of the film sans music, declaring that the score created by Alex North (A Streetcar Named Desire) was chiefly responsible for turning the danger of the play into a saccharine melodrama. He also fondly praised the performance of Liz Taylor, despite his initial fear that she was simply too young to play the part (Ms. Taylor was 33 at the time she was cast in the film, and clearly not the "large, boisterous woman, 52 ... ample, but not fleshy" character described in the original play).

One of the more revealing moments of the night occurred when interviewer and interviewee joked about how much time they were taking to talk. Mr. Albee made a present of his watch (which he declared was not something he would miss) to Mr. Houghton. Beneath the casual banter and wry comebacks is evidence of an inimitable bond between two people who have found a creative home in each other. This is a clear manifestation of the personal nature of the connections between the artists who form Signature Theatre.

The five hundred or so attendees of the free event made it to a packed Pace University auditorium despite a last-minute location change due to the inclement weather. Mr. Albee clearly relished the opportunity to interact with such a young and passionate crowd, speaking to the auditorium with great candor and informal ease. The success of the event is proof of his enduring popularity, and prophesies a banner year for "America's greatest living playwright."


Originally Posted by Drew Moerlein August 30, 2007

I've noticed that other Bloggers have been blogging about Signature.

Check out what they have to say about Iphigenia 2.0:

Click here for Sarah's Blog

Click here for David's Blog

Click here for Elizabeth's Blog


Originally Posted by Drew Moerlein August 23, 2007

I don't know where you'll all be on Thursday, September 6, 2007, but I will be lounging in the Lazy Boy chair I will have transported from my buddy's apartment the day before, staring at the shiny new flat-screen TV hanging in the lobby of the Peter Norton space with the newly installed sound system to enhance the memorable plays, and watching the Kick-off of the NFL season! There will be flip-flops, sweat-pants, and a stained white t-shirt involved, as well as a sixer of Bud and a bag of nacho cheese Doritos… That's a Thursday night if I've ever heard of one. Oh, and if there's a show that night… Yeah… I didn't really think through that issue completely yet… Let me get back to you…

Alright, alright, alright… There is a slim chance of that plan actually transpiring, but seriously, if I could watch it in the lobby I would, because this new TV is just ridiculously cool. It will be used for pre-show footage and slide-shows, as well as a monitor of the stage while the show is in progress. It is a classy upgrade, and is yet another indication of Signature's move toward this new, professional look.

The sound system was tried out last night, with the house manager making numerous announcements on it without the use of such intense projection techniques. That will be a blessing when I house manage next, because I really have to get my pipes warmed up and get myself mentally-prepared to be heard over a crowd pushing 160.

So I don't like to say that technology is that important in this world and this business, but come on, a flat-screen and a new sound system are definitely much needed, or at least much wanted!!


Originally Posted by Drew Moerlein August 9, 2007

Oh boy, Oh boy, Oh boy… What a night it was! Rows upon rows of tumblers, brimming with dark burgundy and golden wine, lined up on the bar at the Peter Norton space, all vanishing with startling speed! Subscribers and other patrons smiled, chatted, sipped wine, and made the foyer quite the bustling and merry little gathering place on Wednesday night. As I poured the wine, patrons came up grinning and literally oozing with appreciation for the complimentary wine reception before the show.

It was a large breadth of ages, styles, demeanors, and personalities that strolled up to the bar, but every person seemed eager to meet new theatre-goers and get their drink on before the real treat of the evening got rolling - the second preview of Iphigenia 2.0. One funny thing that happened was when this patron walked up to the bar and said, "Could I have about half as much as that, please?" And I said, "Of course, sir," and began pouring. "Whoa, somebody's done this before!" said the man as he chuckled and took the glass. I said, "I mean not really, mostly just at the dinner table with water or milk, ya know?" "Well tell your parents they raised you right!" he said. And I laughed as I said, "I guess I could tell them that, but you do realize we are talking about my efficiency at pouring booze and thanking my parents for their quality training… haha." O.K. that was a slight tangent, but I had to throw it in to show what a fun and comfortable community Signature surrounds itself with (and to give a little shout-out to my folks). Wow, it is like cheesy story and one-liners day for me!

Anyway, with the conclusion of the reception, the show began and went on without any mishaps, and the cheery faces exited the theatre having been showered with glee, sadness, anger, and a barrage of intensity.

To Subscriber Wine Receptions, I say Drink, Eat, and Be Merry!


Originally Posted by Drew Moerlein August 2, 2007

David Gallo

An unusual sight at the ever-safe and illustrious Peter Norton Space over the last couple of weeks - every door stood at command, propped and gaping, for the quirky, dirty, and always odd shaped props and set pieces to be loaded onto the stage for Iphigenia 2.0. I'm not going to lie, folks - The Peter Norton Space looks like a war zone. Although not altogether inappropriate for the concept of the play, I like to believe that the "rubble" generally stays within the confines of the theatre and the stage, but when you see this set and the actors playing on and in it, you will understand why the whole complex has been ransacked.

The boards are taped together and clinging to the floor of the lobby in a fervent attempt to save the cushy rugs. Boxes, hand-trucks, enough sawdust to cover Texas and then some, tools, paint, and hoards of set pieces and props are scattered all over the building. And these are merely the lifeless additions to the crowded building… The number of interesting and tireless carpenters, painters, designers, electricians, and movers that have essentially bunked-up in the Peter Norton Space is humorous, to say the least. It is quite the sight; I will vouch for that.

I just can't wait to see what will come of all of this clutter… I'm a little in the dark, as are all of you, because I have yet to sit in on a rehearsal in the theatre (I sat in on the first rehearsal in our rehearsal studio), so I don't know what could be next for Signature. Last year, they dug and sat in dirt on stage… Yeah, real dirt…. Yeah, with real shovels… I know… Wow. What's next?! Not to be too cliché, but the possibilities seem endless for the set and the spectacle with all of the materials I have seen moved into the theatre over the last couple of weeks! I can't wait - How about you?!


Originally Posted by Drew Moerlein July 31, 2007

So, yeah… I have gotten quite a few e-mails over the last few days about the BLOG. They have pretty much been positive comments about the BLOG in general, but every single one has mentioned a title discrepancy - Captain Kathryn Janeway, not Admiral Kathryn Janeway. As I have been informed, if I only saw the final episode, in which Captain Kathryn Janeway becomes Admiral Kathryn Janeway by the use of time-travel, then it would be a valid mistake, but when we get right down to it, I just used a bogus website and got wrong information. Thank you all for your comments and concerns. It's fun to know people are reading and caring about the accuracy of this BLOG!


Originally Posted by Drew Moerlein Jul 19, 2007

Stephen McKinley Henderson

To be quite blunt - the sound that comes from Kate Mulgrew's mouth when she speaks feels like nothing less than a magnitude 3 earthquake rumbling through the support beams of the rehearsal space (you know… the kind that feels like a Mack truck cruising just in front of your living room - shaking china ware and the like). If I had to pick a person who I would not want yelling at me, it would be Kate, simply because a firm whisper would undoubtedly knock my britches off, so I can only imagine what a full-volume lecture would do to me and the building around me. I can say truthfully that I sat in awe for the first few minutes of rehearsal, wondering how this remarkable, almost other-worldly sound could rise up out of this woman.

Other-worldly!! What do you know - the perfect transition. Although I never really watched Star Trek in my youth, or much other TV for that matter, it has been an eye-opener researching Kate Mulgrew, Iphigenia 2.0's Clytemnestra, who is perhaps most well-known for her role as Admiral Kathryn Janeway, in Star Trek Voyager. It's so strange to me to think that Admiral Kathryn Janeway, who I remember as an intergalactic, space-ship riding, evil-fighting, outer-space warrior is actually speaking and acting live on stage every day as a passionate mother and wife. Mind-boggling may be slightly too severe an expression for the situation, but it is very strange to know a face that well from TV, an art form that urges the viewer to believe that these fictional characters, events, and places are real, and that a woman like Admiral Kathryn Janeway is a real person and not Kate Mulgrew at all, and then to see that person question the actions of an empire in a reinvention of a classic play (Iphigenia 2.0) rather than speak of the constant dangers of space-travel is rather amazing.

I know it just seems like another well-known and well-renowned actor coming into a rehearsal space, but it feels different in Kate's situation, because I know her best from Star Trek and there is arguably very little reality in the premise of that program, meaning that I have not seen her in a role where she embodies a character who could be a reality in my life.

Anyway, Kate brings such a power to this production, and I can't wait to see how it evolves and becomes more and more relevant to my life and the issues that we have all faced or will face at some point in our lives (well, maybe not to such an extreme, but you know what I'm saying - love, hate, passion, betrayal, honor, disgust, fear, happiness, etc.).

Wednesday, January 16, 2008


Originally Posted by Drew Moerlein July 12, 2007

David Gallo
Charles Mee, Playwright

"I would say you don't have to act a lot or do too much because it's the first read, but that never happens, so just do whatever!!" I couldn't agree with Tina more (director of Iphigenia 2.0)! How true of a statement is that, you know? All of us actor-people have a very intimate relationship with the first read and the tradition of it, and, boy-oh-boy, the day a director says that to a cast that I am part of and it actually happens, I'm going to slump in my chair, rather kerplunked, and wonder what kind of a world I live in - Actors who don't try too hard on the first read… What?

Anyway, it was quite the merry time on Tuesday. There was a lot of chatter and "getting to know each other" going on before things really started up, and by the time the speeches had been made and we had taken our first break, the anticipation and almost electric energy was just flowing around the table of actors in the center of the room. It wouldn't be fair to give all the credit for the phenomenal energy in the room during the rehearsal to the amazing people in the room, because come on… the number of pastries I inhaled with glazes and crumbles and fruits galore were undoubtedly taking over my thought process, central nervous system, and blowing my energy and excitement through the roof, and I don't believe I was the only one to help finish those platters of goodies…

During the reading, it was pretty amazing to watch these actors interact sitting in the confines of a square of tables. It was evident by the uproarious laughter and the attentiveness in the room, that the bonds of father-mother, father-daughter, mother-daughter, friends, and lovers are already developing and being explored in the cast of Iphigenia 2.0. I loved witnessing the actors dive headlong into glee, grief, remorse, betrayal, honor, trust, and love with a script still in hand, their street clothes on, and designers, staff, and others seated on all sides. All inhibitions were dropped, and it was only the first reading!

I just can't wait to see what the theatre is going to look like with the set and props completely moved in, the actors in costume and off-book, and the lighting and sound designers getting as wild as possible (Oh, and I almost forgot… Tina, the director, perched at the helm with a Mary Poppins-like bag of ideas to be thrown around and sometimes used, sometimes burned, and always tried)!!


Originally Posted by Drew Moerlein July 5, 2007

Out with the old and in with the new… that works for me. Catchy colors, edgy designs, a youthful flair, and a logo that would take the cake and run with it at any "coolest logo" contest, are taking over Signature's look. I'll come clean, it was not difficult to stroll past the theater without glancing up at the marquee or peering in the windows a few weeks ago, but the new vinyl sign and the freshly painted, matching interior can't help but suck me in. It's bright and vibrant and dare I say, mesmerizing (O.K., a little over-dramatic). But seriously, it is really amazing how cool this new logo is.

What I love about it, is that the doodly, scribbly, messy background (which is actually the "signatures" of all of the playwrights that Signature has had onboard since they began… so cool) makes the neat block letters reading Signature Theatre Company pop out even more. And of course it is not enough to just have the sweetest logo around - it comes in every color combination you could dream up… as long as it's crisp and bright (I like the yellow background with purple lettering, but if another one is your favorite I guess I can accept that… you'll need to present a pretty solid case, though… haha).

Now, when I started at Signature about a month ago, I didn't exactly walk into a newly and perfectly-adorned theatre. It was being stripped of all the old logos and designs as I got on-board, and it was disheveled to the point where I was wondering what I had gotten myself into. But don't fret, the windows are now sparkling with new designs and the paint scheme has fallen into place beautifully. It's weird because it's so empty right now, but, just think, in a week or so, the stage will be crawling with actors and the lobby will be filled with throngs of audience members.

Oh - and the website is awesome, too. Great splash page… the new logo in motion. Signature's making moves in the right direction, and I like it.


Originally Posted by Drew Moerlein, a Marketing Intern at Signature Theatre Company Thursday, June 21, 2007. A senior acting major at Syracuse University, Drew joins Signature for the summer, and takes a break from fishing and landscaping in New Hampshire, his home state.

Signature's Playwright-in-Residence, Charles Mee came to have lunch with the staff and share his wisdom over Thai food. Signature's Playwrights in Residence have close contact with each staff member throughout the year, so the annual staff lunch is a great way for Chuck to get familiar with the staff and vice versa.

"Ummm, I guess your name, where you were born, and ummm, let's see… the name of your prom date!" What an ice-breaker that was! If anyone was nervous about speaking in front of Chuck Mee during the first lunch where he was to meet the staff of Signature, it was quickly zapped when a staff member opened the introductions with, "Well my prom date was my high school sweet-heart, and her dad made her break-up with me because I was two years older than her. But the real kicker is - Just after starting college she dropped out and now lives in Florida with her 30-year-old boyfriend and his 10-year-old son… Yes, an actual child. But I guess I can see how I was a little old for her…"

After that, every staff member splurged, taking his or her sweet time to tell a humorous blurb about their high school years or favorite date story. It wasn't until Chuck "took the podium" that things took quite a dirty turn. Chuck sat back in his seat, placed his fork down on the half-eaten plate of Thai food, adopted a quite serious demeanor, and with his wedding-banded hands clasped, he launched into his prom date story - "It's very funny you should mention that topic, because my high school prom date just called me, and surprisingly enough, she told me to meet her in Colorado Springs, in that same parking-lot, because her husband wasn't going to be home for a while…" You should have seen the conference room. Every mouth stopped munching, all eyes stopped moving, and undoubtedly, everyone's impression of Chuck changed in an instant. But just about as fast as that happened, his look melted into glee, and the room erupted in laughter. It was obvious that he had a humorous vein, because the next sentence that came out of his mouth was about his travels with his wife.

The divine Thai platters were ignored completely while Chuck spoke. This man is incredible to listen to. I can't wait for the talk-backs and all of the other opportunities I will have to hear him speak. His articulation, his insight, his breadth of knowledge, and the tumultuous journey that is Chuck Mee's life, are rather daunting to me. It's interesting, because, although he is a very witty man, much of his humor comes from how downright honest he is about his life and his own faults. I must say, it was quite the change from my average lunch break! If you get a chance, sit down and chat it up with Chuck at some point in your life!


Originally Posted Thursday, June 14, 2007

The Peter Norton space pulled the attention of all yesterday, with the new and very edgy Signature Theatre Company logos adorning every wall, window, and doorway. The logo, a compilation of the signatures of all past and present playwrights in residence, with Signature Theatre Company splashed across the image, is a glimpse of the direction in which Signature is heading in future programming - a fresh and innovative approach to theatre.

Yesterday, just inside of the doors of the theatre, the throngs of subscribers, trustees, press, and artists galore, filled the air with a lively and anticipatory buzzing and humming. Old friends reminisced, while new acquaintances chatted and mingled.

After snacking on divine bagels, pastries, and plates of fruit (with a small Mimosa to wash it all down and soothe the morning palate), the attendees made their way into the theatre for the long-awaited announcement.

The first guest of honor, talented actor and friend of Signature, Edward Norton, graced the excited crowd with his presence yesterday morning, taking the stage and speaking words of reverence about Signature's mission and of his longtime friend and Founding Artistic Director of Signature, Jim Houghton.

Norton was followed by a line-up of notable artists, including the next Playwright in Residence, Chuck Mee, and another Signature favorite, Edward Albee, both of whom got many surprised and elated gasps from audience members. But it was not until the 2010-2011 season Playwright in Residence was announced that the crowd went wild. When Jim invited Pulitzer Prize winning, Academy Award nominated writer, Tony Kushner, onto the stage the crowd burst into very audible and excited whispers. Kushner grabbed the audience with his sharp wit as soon as he hit the podium, opening his speech by saying, "I'll make it quick, because I've got a shrink appointment in fifteen minutes." His clarity of thought, and praise of the work that Signature does, both in the quality of art presented and the affordability of tickets due to The Ticket Initiative, captivated the audience and made the wait for the announcement well worth the suspense.



Orginally Posted Thursday, June 7, 2007

The main question coming in from patrons lately is, "Will you still have the Signature Ticket Initiative next year?" I'm not going to answer that question yet. But, I thought you might be interested learning a bit more about the process of securing our subsidized tickets. I caught up with Brooke, Signature's grant writer, to find out what goes into acquiring grants.:

How do you find grants?
As the Grants Coordinator, one of my primary responsibilities is to conduct thorough, ongoing research about Signature's current and prospective institutional funders - that is, foundations, corporations and government agencies and representatives. When the development department and I come across a funder who is - let's say, for example - interested in supporting initiatives which provide broad access to the arts for diverse or traditionally underserved audiences, then that is truly exciting for us. We seek out funding partnerships that are not only a good match for our unique mission and artistic programming; but which ultimately serve the priorities of the funding institution, as well.

What is involved in the preparation of proposals?
At the core of the process is identifying the priorities of the funder and crafting a thoughtful, persuasive proposal that lays out a mutual partnership which will serve the artistic integrity of the work as well as those who are ultimately experiencing it. After the case is made, then comes the relationship-building and the team effort between company and funder to actually realize the work, resulting in me reporting back to the funder on all the great things their gift has made possible!

How important is it for us to receive grants?
If I had my druthers it would be right there in every arts organization's mission statement - "to create and produce exciting work by exciting people with the essential help of everyone who understands how important the work is!! " In short, grants are essential, as is the support of individual donors. The work of a non-profit - especially when that non-profit, like Signature, has its eye set on the highest possible artistic standards - would NEVER happen without contributed income, period.

What appeals to you the most about grant writing?
One of my favorite parts of being a grant writer is, ironically, what happens after the writing - when we turn a prospect into a funder and the partnership has begun. Now there's a person's name attached to the foundation's title; there's a voice on the other end of the phone and a body in the seat at the theatre. It's incredibly rewarding to make personal connections with people who spend their lives supporting the arts, and it's thrilling to be a part of something that moves people.


Orignally Posted Thursday, May 31, 2007

Signature Theatre Company has almost as many interns as it has full time staff members! I have been interning here since January, when I moved from Dublin after college. I work in the marketing department and throughout that time I have been involved in an opening night, two closing nights and the annual gala at the Ritz Carlton.

Being an intern is a varied job. One day you could be hanging up the actor's coats at a closing night party and the next day you could be greeting subscribers in the theatre at a backstage event or even taking a phone call from a celebrity who is trying to book tickets to one of our great shows.

Some of Signature's interns are college students gaining extra credit while others, like me, are graduates who wanted to get some hands on experience in a prestigious theatre company. Some of Signature's full time staff even started out as interns here.

Signature has a young, vibrant staff and the interns are made to feel like an important part of that. The weekly staff meeting makes us feel like a vital part of the company as it gives everyone an opportunity to share what they are working on. I would highly recommending spending a few months here as an intern. I have met some great people and learnt so much about the day to day running of an Off Broadway company. It has been a great experience, one worth coming all the way from Ireland for!


Originally Posted on Thursday, May 24, 2007

David Gallo and Beth Whitaker
Eagle Eye and Curtis after King Hedley II

We had so many surprise visitors at the theatre during the August Wilson Series. I was at King Hedley II on Friday, March 30th before the show, and as I looked around the lobby, I was excited to see someone who looked familiar: Eagle Eye Cherry, the American-Swedish musician. I remembered Eagle Eye as the recent recipient of the MBI Award in London for his hit single "Save Tonight". I wasn't positive it was him, so I asked at the box office and they confirmed that it was and that he had tickets for the show that night. It was such a thrill to see a talented musician like him, in person, at the theatre as part of the audience, participating in the same experience that I was.

After the show I saw Curtis McClarin, who played the role of Mister in King Hedley II, and he was talking to Eagle Eye. Later on I asked Curtis how he knew him - it turns out they went to high school together, and Eagle Eye had their agents help them get back in touch so he could surprise Curtis at the theatre. What are the odds? You never know who will pop up at Signature!


Originally Posted Thursday, May 17, 2007

Though our 2006-2007 season has ended, we at Signature are gearing up to announce the 2007-2008 season and it promises to be an exciting one! Stay tuned for details shortly. Heading up the efforts is our new Executive Director, Erika Mallin. Here's a chance to get to know Erika!:

What drew you to Signature Theatre Company?
I have always loved Signature's work and the mission of the theater -- my mother is a playwright - so I understand and believe in honoring and exploring a writer's body of work. I also have admired Jim as a leader in the industry and believed very much in the philosophy of The Signature Theatre Ticket Initiative. I have long believed that cost was a huge barrier for anyone going to the theater.

What do see as your biggest challenge as Signature's new executive director?
The biggest and most exciting challenge is growing the company to realize its artistic vision by expanding the one writer, one season, to include multiple writers in residency at different levels of their careers.

What are you most excited about in your new role as executive director?
I think there is nothing more exciting than producing great theater and doing it with a terrific staff and incredible writers!

How did you become interested in arts management?
I grew up in the theater and always felt that my strengths were in seeing the big picture and making things happen. Arts management is a perfect fit for me because I get to be a part of making the artistic vision happen, whether that be for a particular show or for the entire institution.

What advice would you give to those interested in arts management?
I think the most important thing one can do is take part in anything available at a particular theater - from production to development, to get a sense of how the business works. I would add, as a former development director, I do think getting development experience is a great way to learn all facets of the business since you must work with artistic, general management, production and marketing to best do your job as a fund raiser and as a spokesperson for the institution.


Originally Posted Thursday, May 10, 2007

Usually when a show ends the main question patrons ask is, "What will the actors be doing next?" In the case of King Hedley II the main question was, "What are you going to do with all that dirt!" We caught up with Ruthie Scarpino, the production intern here at Signature, to find out more about the dirt used in the production.

What is the dirt from King Hedley II made of?
The dirt is made out of four parts. Two parts concrete, one part top soil and one part saw dust. And some water to flavor.

How did you choose this particular dirt?
We experimented. We made samples of various mixtures and took them into rehearsal so the director and designers could look at them and feel them. We'd make batches, or tubs, of sample dirt, mixing different amounts of the same materials. One time we tried adding glue to the mix but that just made a mess. We didn't want the dirt too dusty or too healthy. The health of our actors and audience was also a concern when trying mixtures.

How did the actors react to the dirt?
The actors had to get used to walking on it, they rehearsed on a flat surface, so moving to something textured like dirt was a bit of an adjustment. Reggie, our costume designer, had the most trouble with it. He originally wanted Lynda, who played Ruby, to wear stiletto shoes in act two. But in the end he was not able to do this. He had to choose comfort and mobility over fashion.

How did you get the dirt on the ground?
We mixed our concoction in a five gallon tub, added a bit of water, and then slopped it on the stage. We had to be sure to cover the whole stage and spread it out evenly. The final step in the process was stomping on the dirt to even it out and help it settle. Watching the crew jumping around the stage was certainly a sight to see.

How are you getting the dirt out of the theatre?
Shovels and buckets. It's actually quite a tedious process. The dirt has gotten very hard throughout the run of the show. In order to get it up, before we can shovel it, we have to break through the compact dirt at the bottom. Once we find, or create, that break in the dirt we're using shovels to shovel it into buckets, which then goes into the dumpster.


Orignally Posted Thursday, May 3, 2007

After the matinee performance on April 14th, Signature Theatre staff, the audience, and the entire cast of King Hedley II participated in an awards ceremony to celebrate the winners of the August Wilson Writing Contest. The winners, all high school students in New York, joined the cast onstage to receive their prizes. With the generous support of sponsors Time Warner and Target, winners took home gift certificates, an iPod, a Bose Sound Dock, passes to the MoMa, and much more.

In addition to the great prizes, winners particularly enjoyed the chance to speak with cast members Lynda Gravatt and Stephen McKinley Henderson over dinner at Starwich. While enjoying spectacular sandwiches and Starwich's signature pomegranate lemonade, winners spoke with Stephen and Lynda about their work in the performing arts.

Lynda shared that she has seen many changes in the New York performing arts scene since she entered it over 50 years ago. The most significant difference that she noted was the lack of opportunity that Broadway shows today have to rehearse outside of New York and work out any kinks in their performances prior to launching on Broadway.

Both cast members compared their experiences in the live performing arts with their work in television and film. The discussion became quite lively when both Lynda and Stephen discussed their recurring roles on the various "Law and Orders". Both play judges and appear frequently on the shows.


Orignally Posted Thursday, April 26, 2007

On Sunday the Signature Theatre Company 2006-2007 August Wilson season came to a close and it was a bittersweet moment for all of us who had the privilege of working on these three extraordinary productions. As has been the case for most of the run of KING HEDLEY II, people started lining up quite early for the matinee, hoping for cancellations or returns to the sold out 2pm show. Derrick Sanders, the director, came to see the show off, taking an afternoon off from his current Broadway gig as Assistant Director of August Wilson's RADIO GOLF. In fact, several members of the cast of Radio Golf also showed their support by attending HEDLEY on their day off. It seems very fitting that immediately following our season, another production of Mr. Wilson's should open on Broadway!

Also in the audience were other VIP's, including many of our August Wilson Ambassadors, donors, and Paula Vogel (a past Signature Theatre Company Playwright-in-Residence.) Stephen McKinley Henderson closed the performance off with a speech about the August Wilson season stating how, "as long as there are actors and theatres in the world," August Wilson lives on.

Afterwards, the cast, crew and staff gathered at one of Signature's favorite watering holes, The Irish Rogue, for a final farewell toast to the season. What's everyone up to next? seemed to be the question of the night. Leading man Russell Hornsby is off to a well deserved Italian vacation before returning to his TV show, Lincoln Heights. Stephen McKinley Henderson takes a quick trip home to Buffalo before returning this coming Friday, April 27 to tape an American Theatre Wing seminar and take part in a special August Wilson event being hosted by Time Warner the following Monday. He also just completed the pilot for FOX's "New Amsterdam," directed by acclaimed director Lasse Hallstrom. With any luck, he'll be back filming more episodes very soon!

As for the staff, we'll continue to wrap up the details of this past season as well as begin some full-force planning for our upcoming season. Details will be announced very soon, so check our website for updates.


Originally Posted Thursday, April 19, 2007

Russell Hornsby An interview with Russell Hornsby, who plays King in King Hedley II:

What has your experience of being in King Hedley II been like?
It has been an eye-opening experience. I feel like I've learned a lot more about myself as a human being and as a man. I've learned a lot more about the craft and about August. Doing this play has opened my eyes to the injustices of this country. All men are created equal, but not treated equally. I think this is something you learn more about when you get older and deal with different aspects of life. Doing King Hedley II at this age has taught me that you have to do the best with what you've got.

What attracted you to the role of King?
Overall it was the depth of King, the truth and honesty with which August wrote King. He didn't pull any punches. You get to see the true depiction of a black man being taken advantage of in America. I wanted to give a voice to that character, that man who lives in America every day who is trying to make a life, the man who is pre-judged and not given an opportunity. He doesn't have a "standard" education, I wanted to show dignity and humanity in that black man who society has taken advantage.

How did you approach the role of King?
I really looked at the words, they told me a lot about King, and let the story lead me. I feel like more than any other character or play this is the one I can truly identify with, or have an interpersonal understanding of. I don't feel like I had to go very far to find him. I approached him from an honest place. I see a number of "Kings" pass my way daily. I let the words tell, and inform me, about who King is.

Do you have any pre-show rituals?
I listen to music. I set a playlist for myself of all the pertinent music of not only the 80s, but music of the time that's socially conscious. That really gets me into the mind-set of King. I listen to Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On" and a lot of 2Pac because of his song "Me Against the World" where he says, "I've got nothing to lose, it's just me against the world." King feels that way; it's just me against everyone else� if you're not for me you're against me. The rebel music has that energy and spirit to get me in the mind-set of America in 1985, in Pittsburgh PA. The music gets me energized and ready to tackle the huge role.

What was your first experience with August Wilson's work?
When I graduated from high school my mother took me to see Two Trains Running on Broadway. She said, "I'm going to take you and we're going to see Two Trains Running and Jelly's Last Jam with Gregory Hines." I had no idea what I was in for. We went and I got the chance to see the great Roscoe Lee Browne and Laurence Fishburne. It blew my mind - seeing my people, seeing myself onstage, really energized me. I wanted to do that. Six years later, getting to originate the role of Youngblood in Jitney while, working directly alongside August was a dream come true.

How did you get started in acting?
I was a sophomore in high school and one of my good friends dared me to try out for the school play, we were doing The Wiz. I ended up auditioning, getting a role, and fell in love with it. The audience was captivated and paying attention to me. I was drunk with the idea of people being here to see me; I wanted to continue to explore that. Upon leaving high school I didn't know what I wanted to do. Another friend said, "Why don't you just be an actor, they don't do anything." If I had known how hard it was I wouldn't have done it. I went full steam ahead with acting school. My mom said she would support it, but that if I was going to do it then I couldn't quit. She'll deny that now, it was a scare tactic and it worked - many times I wanted to come home.

If you weren't an actor what other profession would interest you?
I'd probably be a teacher. I spend a lot of time volunteering and working with kids. I can't be specific as to what kind of teacher, but I would be working with young people in some capacity. I'd be giving back as best I can. When I was growing up I worked with a recreation center as a counselor and always had fun creating activities for the kids. I remember putting on talent shows, getting excited about tapping into other aspects of creativity. I still volunteer and I know as time goes on I'm going to have the time to give more of myself to young people.

What will you work on next?
I'm going back to shoot the second season of ABC Family's Lincoln Heights. I play a police officer with a wife and three kids. It's a wonderful family drama, and I'm really excited about it.


Originally Posted Thursday, April 11, 2007

Stephen McKinley Henderson An interview with Stephen McKinley Henderson, who plays Elmore in King Hedley II:

What attracted you to the role of Elmore?
I was not particularly attracted to the role of Elmore. I had seen Charles Brown essay the role wonderfully in the Broadway production. My attraction was to being a part of another Signature revival. I was willing to serve the play and the season because August's works are both challenging and fulfilling. This experience epitomizes that for me.

How did you approach the role of Elmore?
I simply opened up to him. The role is so gloriously written, I found him by seeking him out. He wasn't hiding at all.

Do you have any pre-show rituals?
I don't know if I do anything interesting in terms of ritual. I do the same things but in varying order. I do say a prayer in Arabic, Latin, and Hebrew before I go on... nah, just kidding.

How does audience response affect you during a show, if at all?
The audience affects me by sending back the energy we send out. Whatever form they send it back in is fine with me. It is when they are not responding to what we are sending out, but conversing about it with each other that we have something detrimental going on. The audience is always frank and opinionated with a Wilson play because he touches them where they aren't normally touched. Sometimes they love it, sometimes they don't.

What has your experience of being in King Hedley been like?
The inexhaustible layers of meaning in the play continue to amaze me. I have benefited from hearing the play from two perspectives. Having done Stool Pigeon first and now Elmore, I marvel at August's craft as a playwright and affinity for his characters.

How did this experience compare to working on the Broadway production of King Hedley II?
King Hedley II was my first Broadway show and now that theater is The August Wilson Theater. Those facts make the first time occupy a unique place in my journey. This production is a labor of love because of the memories we are making. They don't compare, they complement each other.

What has your experience been working on more then one show this season at Signature Theatre Company?
I have had an embarrassment of riches in so many ways at the Signature this season. I had brief but meaningful conversations with Lee Blessing, John Guare, and Romulus Linney. I worked with Ruben Santiago-Hudson on Seven Guitars and the Signature Gala, being a part of a wonderful company of actors from all of the plays who will proudly wear Signature Series Merchandise for years to come. I have been in rare company this season and I am grateful for it.

What was your first experience with August Wilson's work?
The first Wilson play I did was Joe Turner's Come and Gone for the Studio Arena Theater in Buffalo, NY. It remains a cherished memory.

How did you become interested in the theatre?
Love of poetry led me to the theater. Fear of singing in public led me to dramas.

How did you get started in acting?
I was encouraged to speak in public when I was very young after I did an Easter poem. I also would describe parts of movies to my brother who missed some important dialogue off camera. He was deaf and though he could read lips amazingly well, there was always something in the storyline that he hadn't grasped because of off camera lines at certain points. I really got into giving him this reenactment. His two favorites were, Somebody Up There Likes Me, and A Patch of Blue.

If you weren't an actor what other profession would you be interested in?
I would love to be someone who is trusted to clean and revitalize classic art works on canvas, on walls, reliefs, sculptures, tapestries. I would take great pride in going to ancient cites or museums and being allowed into rooms that patrons never see where delicate restoration is performed. Yea, I would spend private time with great works of art and those who cherish them would know that I was a true friend of Culture.

What will you be working on next?
I just finished a pilot for Fox Television called New Amsterdam. I hope to be working on that this summer if fortune smiles.


Originally Posted Thursday, April 4, 2007

On March 29th, we held our first "Backstage at Signature" event. The evening was a great success and was rounded off beautifully with a selection of delicious wine and cheeses for everyone who attended.

We had an informative question and answer session with King Hedley II set designer David Gallo before the evening's performance. David is a Tony Award winning designer and also designed the set for the Broadway production of King Hedley II where he worked in collaboration with the late August Wilson.

One audience member who grew up in Pittsburgh was impressed with how accurate our set was. David revealed to the audience that the house on Signature's set was based on an actual photograph from Pittsburgh's Hill District where August grew up. The night was full of fascinating insights into the process of design and production and David confessed that it was a childhood attraction to the fantastical world of "Star Wars" that got him interested in set designing.

Afterwards I spoke to an audience member Dina, who attended the event. Dina said she left with a heightened interest in Wilson's work and in Signature Theatre Company because she gained "so much insight in to both your production and the playwright." Thanks to everyone who attended and made it such a fun evening, and a special thanks to David for all his great August Wilson stories!