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Theater for the 99%

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"The nice thing about Signature is it proves you're not only as good as your most recent play," Albee says. "You're as good as the entire corpus of your work."

From the beginning, the honor of being celebrated attracted major dramatists like Miller, Mr. Foote, Sam Shepard, John Guare, Lanford Wilson, and August Wilson, which provided momentum and built devoted audiences.

Signature also distinguished itself by involving playwrights in every aspect of production. "A lot of people think the director knows more about the play than the playwright, which is preposterous nonsense," Albee says. "I have this bizarre notion that nobody knows better what the play is about and how it should sound and look than the person who wrote it." A self-described "control freak," Albee immerses himself in details like set design and lighting to craft definitive productions. His play "The Lady from Dubuque" opens at Signature Feb. 14.

With the enlarged center (three theaters seating a total of almost 700 patrons), the Signature can now expand its mission. In addition to focusing on the historical canon, Houghton is launching a program called Residency 5, which will pay a stipend of $50,000 to five young playwrights and guarantee them three productions over the course of five years. The African-American playwright Katori Hall (whose "The Mountaintop" won London's Olivier award for Best New Play and is now on Broadway) is rehearsing her play "Hurt Village," which opens at the Signature Feb. 7. [Editor's note: The original version incorrectly stated the title of Katori Hall's play 'Hurt Village.']

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