Listen at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b07m7nph
Marie-Louise Muir looks back on 25 years of New York's influential Signature Theatre company with founder Jim Houghton as he prepares to step aside as Artistic Director.
While not as famous as the writers and actors with whom he works, Jim Houghton has become a much-respected figure in New York theatre over the past three decades. Signature Theatre started life in a tiny storefront in downtown Manhattan spurred on by Jim's mission to put the writer at the heart of everything the company did. Signature was unique in its commitment to devote an entire season to the work of a living playwright and Jim has worked with some of the most important, and often under-appreciated, American writers of the past half century, including Romulus Linney, Edward Albee, Horton Foote, Adrienne Kennedy, Sam Shepard, Arthur Miller, Maria Irene Fornes, August Wilson and Tony Kushner.
A little-known 24 year old who earned his first professional pay cheque during the Edward Albee season in 1994, Hollywood actor Edward Norton has stayed loyal to the company, becoming their Board Chairman and working alongside Jim and others to raise the funds to build the $70 million 3-theatre space that opened on 42nd Street in 2012.
In June of this year, Marie-Louise Muir travelled to New York to speak with Jim Houghton as he prepared to mark the end of his tenure at Signature. They talked at length about his formative years, the ill health that has prompted his decision to move on, and the perhaps surprising career path of an undiagnosed dyslexic with severe reading problems who ended up spending 25 years championing writers and their words.
Featuring contributions from actors Edward Norton and Laura Linney, and New York Times chief theatre critic Ben Brantley.
Producer: Stan Ferguson.