Press Release: May 20, 2021
Signature Theatre Executive Director Harold Wolpert to Step Down
Wolpert, Together with Artistic Director Paige Evans, Has Led the Influential Off-Broadway Theater into a Future of Great Relevance
Signature Theatre (Paige Evans, Artistic Director; Harold Wolpert, Executive Director; Nina Matis, Board President) today announced that its Executive Director, Harold Wolpert, will depart the institution on June 30, having helped to steer it through the COVID-19 pandemic. He has decided to leave to pursue change in the field more broadly, from outside of an institution for the first time in his three-decade career to date.
Wolpert came to Signature in October 2017 for a six-month consulting engagement aimed at facilitating a smooth transition into a new era guided by the vision of Artistic Director Paige Evans after the untimely death of Founder James Houghton. Wolpert, a three-time Tony Award-winner, had served in leadership roles at some of the country’s premier not-for-profit theaters, including Manhattan Theatre Club and, most recently, Roundabout Theatre Company, where he was Managing Director. Based on the success of his efforts to stabilize operations, Signature’s Board invited him to extend and expand his work with the organization, appointing him Executive Director in March 2018.
Wolpert has done much more than help Signature address its financial and organizational future. He spearheaded the company’s board growth and development, including the creation of its first Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Accessibility Committee, and charted a course towards becoming a more inclusive, anti-racist organization. He has played a key role in the launch of new initiatives supported by transformational grants from major foundations totaling $3.5 million. By forming new co-production and touring relationships, Wolpert has helped Signature amplify the work of resident playwrights brought in by Evans and raise its institutional profile beyond the Pershing Square Signature Center, such as through the company’s upcoming first national tour, of Lauren Yee’s Cambodian Rock Band, and the continued life of Signature’s first musical, Dave Malloy’s Octet. He oversaw Signature’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic crisis and shutdown, including the Sustain Signature Fund, inspired by the generous donations from the Board of Trustees, which raised $2.25M, paving the way to reopening. Wolpert leaves Signature having built a strong foundation for future advancement of the company.
Signature Theatre Board President Nina Matis said, “Harold is a beloved member of the Signature family. What began as a consultancy turned into an impactful tenure at an important juncture in Signature's history. We look forward with excitement to the bright future he has helped us establish, including the imminent reopening of the Pershing Square Signature Center and innovative new programming devised by Paige.”
Signature Theatre Board Chair Edward Norton said, “Harold’s passion for Signature’s mission, the American theater, and the role of the arts in social justice has been a priceless asset and has always lifted my spirits. The artistic community survives tough times like these because of champions like him, and I have so much gratitude for all he’s given Signature.”
Signature Theatre playwright-in-residence Anna Deavere Smith said of Wolpert, "There’s much to appreciate about Harold. What I have liked most is his spirit of radical hospitality. I have felt deeply welcomed by him at Signature. Quite simply, he's a classy cat with a warm and palpable respect for artists."
Signature Theatre Executive Director Harold Wolpert said, “I have been deeply grateful for the opportunity to serve this community as Signature’s Executive Director. I was humbled by the Board’s invitation to stay on, and my decision to leave Signature was an incredibly difficult one. Signature's unmatched commitment to playwrights aligns so well with my own deep admiration for writers as artists, citizens, and activists. Signature’s core values of access, embodied by the Signature Ticket Initiative subsidy, and cultivation of community make it a beloved and special company where I’ve been enriched by the ‘orchestrated collisions’ that occur all the time. I will miss those daily interactions, but, at this moment of great uncertainty, and amidst cries for racial justice and equity, I have decided to shift my focus to collaborate with artists and the theatre community in a different way. Signature is a gift from Jim Houghton, and it has been an honor to be one of the beneficiaries of his generous spirit, and I intend to carry that forward in service to our field.”