News & Politics

New Home for Signature Theatre in Shirlington

Attend a free open house January 13-14, 2007.

New Home Means More Creative Freedom

Signature Theatre’s new home, a striking space in Shirlington Village, gives artistic director Eric Schaeffer and his company what they need to take productions to a new level.

With the opening of its two-theater complex in Arlington’s Shirlington Village, Signature is still very close to its old home, but the 17-year-old company has come a long way from its humble beginnings.

The $16-million building re­places the Garage, a car-bumper-plating shop where Signature was for 14 years. The challenges of staging productions in that small, awkward space had become a hindrance, artistic director Eric Schaeffer says. “The new space—expanded rehearsal halls, for instance—lets us focus on the creative process rather than the obstacles we faced in the old building.”

Signature now has the spacious, 299-to-350-seat Max theater and a 99-seat black box called the Ark plus three rehearsal/education rooms and on-site scenery and costume shops. Acoustics are state of the art, and seating in both theaters can be configured in different ways to echo the intimacy that people loved about the old space.

“For us,” says Schaeffer, “it’s not about making the biggest theater we could but about making the theater experience an emotional journey.”

Schaeffer will christen the theater with what he does best: a Stephen Sondheim musical. Into the Woods, based on child psychologist Bruno Bettelheim’s book about how fairy tales have many layers of meaning, runs January 12 to February 25. Tickets are $37 to $63.

The show will be a homecoming for artists long associated with Signature: choreographer Karma Camp and actors Eleasha Gamble, Donna Migliaccio, Stephen Gregory Smith, and Harry A. Winter.

A free open house January 13 and 14 includes cabaret performances, readings, and artist talks.

2800 S. Stafford St., Arlington; 703-820-9771;