The Tony Award-winning Signature Theatre in Arlington, Virginia
Signature Theatre is a Tony Award®-winning regional theater that broadens and brightens the region’s cultural landscape with its bold productions of challenging new and established works and engaging education and outreach programs. Musical theater is Signature's "signature," and the Theatre is renowned for its definitive Sondheim productions, inventive adaptations of overlooked or forgotten works, and investment in fresh new projects. Signature makes a significant investment in new work, and its American Musical Voices Project has grown to become the single largest musical theater commissioning project in the United States.
Twenty-four years ago, Washington, DC’s theater scene was dominated by large venues that presented mostly traditional plays. Few theaters dared to take the risk of producing new work, and even fewer produced lesser-known or new musicals. In 1989, to fill this gap and crate a “signature” brand of provocative works, graphic designer and performer Eric Schaeffer took a risk and founded Signature Theatre. With a small startup budget, 126 subscribers, and a space in Arlington’s Gunston Middle school auditorium, Signature’s first musical in 1991—a gutsy production of Sweeney Todd—was a stand-out hit, putting Signature on the map, earning four Helen Hayes Awards and solidifying Signature’s (and Eric Schaeffer’s) reputation as an intrepid producer of Stephen Sondheim’s work. In 1993, Signature took another risk and converted an old auto garage into the theater where it thrived for the following thirteen years. While in the “garage,” Signature grew into one of the Washington area’s leading producers of musical theater, attracting the best and brightest in the field, as well as nurturing new talent. In January 2007, Signature completed a $16 million capital campaign for a dramatic new theatre facility that tripled its former garage space and now serves as the cultural anchor of Arlington’s Shirlington Village. Today, Signature garners praise from local and national press including The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Time, Variety, USA Today, and American Theatre. On June 7, 2009, Signature received theater’s highest artistic honor—the 2009 Regional Theatre Tony Award®—in recognition for artistic excellence.
Signature’s 2012/213 season features more than 500 performances of nine full productions (six of which are musicals), a cabaret series, and community engagement opportunities. Signature gives back to the community through education and outreach programs that engage the area’s increasingly diverse population and target those traditionally underserved by the arts. Outreach initiatives include a comprehensive arts education program for Northern Virginia high school students, a performance training institute, a free public lecture series co-hosted by the Arlington County Public Library, and an annual Open House and Summer Concert, which draws more than 6,000 people each year.