High five for Signature

Writers named for Off Broadway residence

Kenneth Lonergan, Annie Baker, Katori Hall, Will Eno and Regina Taylor have been named the first playwrights to be part of the Residency Five program at Off Broadway’s Signature Theater.

Initiative, which guarantees each writer three world premiere productions over five years, reps a significant step up in the ongoing producing activity of Signature, better known for programming entire seasons of a single playwright’s work. That program, now called Residency One, will continue next year with Athol Fugard.

The launch of Residency Five, which awards each writer $50,000 as well as health benefits and a stipend for theater tickets, coincides with the imminent opening of the Signature’s new midtown venue, the Signature Center, with three theaters on tap to house full productions (vs. a single stage in the org’s prior space).

Hall’s play “The Mountaintop” opens on Broadway next month in a run that stars Samuel L. Jackson and Angela Bassett, while Baker (“Circle Mirror Transformation”) has in recent seasons become one of Gotham’s most-produced young playwrights. Eno’s “Middletown” bowed last season at the Vineyard, and Lonergan’s “The Starry Messenger” was seen Off Broadway in 2009. Taylor (“Magnolia”) penned the much-produced musical “Crowns.”

Signature also intends to continue a more formalized Legacy Program with the aim of producing plays by past resident scribes, whether new works or revivals.

Residency Five program is an unusual one among nonprofit producing orgs, which more often explore new work in a step-by-step process based on readings and workshops that don’t represent any commitment to stage a full production.

Signature Center opens in February, with programming still to be announced.

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