The Playgoer: Houghton to Juilliard

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Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Houghton to Juilliard

CORRECTION: Signature now confirms to me that Houghton remains the Artistic Director there. So disregard anything below to the contrary. And Playgoer apologizes for rushing to that conclusion.

Somehow I missed this last month, but if you were ever wondering what ever happened to James Houghton after his mysterious "temporary" leave from his Signature Theatre Company
and his even more mysterious departure from the O'Neill Playwrights Center... he's now going to run the Juilliard Drama Division. (More here and here.) He will succeed the ubiquitous Michael Kahn, who will now content himself with only running the Shakespeare Theatre in DC.

That Houghton's background has been primarily working with playwrights makes him a good fit for the Juilliard playwriting program I suppose--although that's already run by two actual writers, Chris Durang and Marsha Norman. That he hasn't been known as either a teacher of acting or as a man of the classics, though, makes him an odd choice for this particular institution whose main theatre reputation rests on the young Shakespearean thespians it puts out.

Maybe Juilliard cared less about pedagogic and stylistic appropriateness than the fundraising power of a big name. But they couldn't find a bigger name than Jim Houghton??? If even Juilliard has trouble finding the right people, what does it say about theatre training in this country?

Meanwhile, send those resumes to Signature Ttheatre attn: "Artistic Director Search"...

ADDENDUM: A reader rightfully points out that Houghton's departure from Signature is by no means certain. After all, if Michael Kahn could run a theatre hundreds of miles away, Houghton should be able to commute from Juilliard to midtown. I guess my assumption was fueled by the fact he has been "on leave" from Signature already and an interim person (whose name escapes me) was already in place for last season. So as far as I know Houghton never officially returned to the helm....For what it's worth he is listed on their site as "Fouding Artistic Director" which is not usually bestowed upon someone current.

I'll try to get to the bottom of it.


Anonymous said...

Where did you see that he's leaving Signature? Isn't he doing both?

Hopefully he can get some of the Signature playwrights to teach at Juilliard. The not-so-dynamic duo responsible for Adam Rapp and Noah Haidle is not exactly as good as it gets in the world of playwriting.

June said...

This is on a different topic, but I see another off-Broadway house is going the way of the Perry Street Theater.

Anonymous said...

If you research the issue-- you will note that Jim Houghton has been one of the greatest voices in the American Theater over the last 100 years.