The Signature Theater Company, the 16-year-old Off Broadway theater that dedicates each season to the work of one American playwright, announced yesterday its next four seasons, which will feature plays by Edward Albee, Charles Mee, Suzan-Lori Parks and Tony Kushner.
What could possibly upstage a group like that? The announcement that, continuing on the success of the previous $15-a-ticket seasons, every seat for every play during all four seasons will cost $20.
For the last two seasons Signature charged $15 for every seat through a deal with Time Warner, the lead sponsor of the ticket initiative. (When shows are extended, tickets go back up to the normal price, which was $55 last season and will be $65 in the coming four.)
James Houghton, the Signature’s artistic director, said the ticket initiative was an unambiguous success, with all productions selling out, some within 48 hours. According to surveys conducted at the theater, half of the ticket buyers were new to the Signature, a quarter earned less than $50,000 a year, and a fifth were under 35.
“We worked very hard to reach audiences and communities that just don’t think about going to the theater because they’ve been priced out,” Mr. Houghton said at a news conference.
Mr. Houghton would not say how much money Time Warner pledged to be the lead sponsor for the next four years. (“A lot” was as specific as he got.)
Margot Adams, a board member, is also a major sponsor.
More money must be raised to keep tickets this cheap until 2011, Mr. Houghton said, but he added that the Signature was about four-fifths of the way there.
“We need quite a bit more, but we were far enough along that we felt we just had to move forward,” he said.
And so what will $20 get you?
Mr. Mee will be the playwright in residence for the 2007-8 season. The first production, to open Aug. 7, will be “Iphigenia 2.0,” Mr. Mee’s reinvention of Euripides’ play about the sacrifice Agamemnon must make before going off to battle. (Mr. Mee has taken a similar approach to the classics in plays like “Orestes 2.0” and “The Trojan Women 2.0.”) Tina Landau will direct.
The next two productions are world premieres: “Queens Boulevard (the musical),” a work inspired by Indian dance-theater that will be directed by Davis McCallum; and “Paradise Park,” to be directed by Daniel Fish.
The last production of the season will be Mr. Albee’s “Occupant,” about the sculptor Louise Nevelson. That play was part of the 2002 season, but the run was cut in half when the star, Anne Bancroft, contracted pneumonia.
The 2008-9 season will be dedicated to writers of the Negro Ensemble Company, including Charles Fuller (“A Soldier’s Play”) and Lonnie Elder (“Ceremonies in Dark Old Men”). Ruben Santiago-Hudson, who directed the acclaimed production of August Wilson’s “Seven Guitars” at the Signature last year, will help present the season with Mr. Houghton.
Ms. Parks (“Topdog/Underdog”) will be the resident playwright for the 2009-10 season, and the year after that —Signature’s 20th— it will be Mr. Kushner.