Sarah Ford | June 7, 2013

Featured Charity: Signature Theatre

See how this Tony Award®-winning theater is brightening the region’s cultural landscape with its bold productions and engaging education and outreach programs. 

Signature Theatre

Musical theater is Signature’s “signature,” and the Theatre is renowned for its definitive Sondheim productions, inventive adaptations of overlooked or forgotten works, and investment in fresh new projects. Signature makes a significant investment in new work, and its American Musical Voices Project has grown to become the single largest musical theater commissioning project in the United States.

Twenty-four years ago, Washington, DC’s theater scene was dominated by large venues that presented mostly traditional plays. Few theaters dared to take the risk of producing new work, and even fewer produced lesser-known or new musicals. In 1989, to fill this Signature Theatregap and crate a “signature” brand of provocative works, graphic designer and performer Eric Schaeffer took a risk and founded Signature Theatre. With a small startup budget, 126 subscribers, and a space in Arlington’s Gunston Middle school auditorium, Signature’s first musical in 1991—a gutsy production of Sweeney Todd—was a stand-out hit, putting Signature on the map, earning four Helen Hayes Awards and solidifying Signature’s (and Eric Schaeffer’s) reputation as an intrepid producer of Stephen Sondheim’s work. In 1993, Signature took another risk and converted an old auto garage into the theater where it thrived for the following thirteen years. While in the “garage,” Signature grew into one of the Washington area’s leading producers of musical theater, attracting the best and brightest in the field, as well as nurturing new talent. In January 2007, Signature completed a $16 million capital campaign for a dramatic new theatre facility that tripled its former garage space and now serves as the cultural anchor of Arlington’s Shirlington Village. Today, Signature garners praise from local and national press including The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Time, Variety,USA Today, and American Theatre. On June 7, 2009, Signature received theater’s highest artistic honor—the 2009 Regional Theatre Tony Award®—in recognition for artistic excellence.

Signature TheatreSignature’s 2012/213 season features:

  • More than 500 performances of nine full productions (six of which are musicals),
  • A cabaret series, and
  • Community engagement opportunities.

Signature gives back to the community through education and outreach programs that engage the area’s increasingly diverse population and target those traditionally underserved by the arts. Outreach initiatives include a comprehensive arts education program for Northern Virginia high school students, a performance ­training institute, a free public lecture series co­-hosted by the Arlington County Public Library, and an annual Open House and Summer Concert, which draws more than 6,000 people each year.

You Can Support Signature Theatre at Work!

Signature couldn’t bring you a season full of reinvented and newly discovered plays and musicals without your help. Each season, Signature’s goal is to showcase Signature favorites, introduce new faces, and for each production to bring something unexpected and innovative to the stage—as only Signature can do!

Workplace giving is an effective and easy way for you to make a tax-deductible donation to Signature, and in many cases you can make your workplace-giving donation go even further by asking your employer to match your donation.  In fact, over 90% of the companies in the DC Metro area offer employee matching gift programs.  These important programs can double, or in some cases, triple, contributions made by a donor to Signature Theatre.

Both current and former employees of the following companies have helped sustain Signature’s artistic, outreach and education programming – all by filling out a simple form: AT&T, Bank of America, Boeing, Caterpillar, Eileen Fisher, ExxonMobil, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, IBM, Macy’s, McGraw Hill, Microsoft, Pfizer, Verizon, The Washington Post, Washington Gas and Wells Fargo.

We encourage you to check with your Human Resources office to find out if your company participates in a matching gift program and are more than happy to answer any questions you may have. Simply contact Deputy Director of Development/Director of Institutional Giving Erin Harms at 571 527 1827 or

If you are a federal employee, it’s easy to support Signature Theatre through the Combined Federal Campaign (CFC) – just enter Signature’s CFC ID, #56138

Upcoming Shows

With a full season of musical favorites and entertaining productions, watch the video below for a peak at Eric Schaeffer’s musical comedy Company, which you can watch now through the end of June.  For a full listing of events, click here.

Want to learn more about Signature Theatre?

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