The Development of Orchestrated Collisions: A Summer at Signature Theatre Company ☆
By Erin Moore
M.A. Candidate, Arts Administration
At most theatres, it would be unusual and thrilling to see the playwright of a particular production lounging in the lobby most afternoons. It would be even more unusual to see two playwrights, both with current productions being mounted, happening upon each other in the lobby. This would be still more intriguing when those playwrights are Sam Shepard and Athol Fugard. And yet, that is what you will often find at the new Pershing Square Signature Center, the home of Signature Theatre Company. Signature’s mission is to honor and celebrate the playwright, and in their new space with three theatres and a welcoming lobby that is open to the public at almost all times, this kind of “orchestrated collision,” to borrow a phrase from Founding Artistic Director Jim Houghton, is fairly frequent and altogether wonderful to witness.
I spent this summer interning in the development department at Signature, assisting with the organization’s fundraising activities. Though soliciting donations is rarely anyone’s idea of a good time, development, especially at Signature, is about intimately understanding an organization’s mission, activities, and impact, and then communicating those to funders. It’s about helping foundations see how they can allow Signature to bring theatre to non-traditional audiences, and helping patrons get excited about supporting the next up-and-coming playwright with a five-year, three production residency. The development department, like Signature as a whole, is about bringing artists and audiences together, facilitating communication to cultivate relationships and make great art.
Perhaps the most remarkable element of working at Signature is the way in which the organization’s mission and values permeate the organization. In Arts Administration, we spend a lot of time pondering the significance of the mission statement. At Signature, the mission to honor and celebrate playwrights by cultivating relationships informs every decision. That consistency and devotion to the mission is palpable. It is what makes Signature compelling to funders and the community. And it is why you should definitely go to Signature and see a show, or even just hang out in the lobby. Who knows what orchestrated collisions may happen while you’re there.