Matthew Gardiner Appointed Artistic Director, co-leading Signature alongside Managing Director Maggie Boland
Signature Theatre’s Board of Directors voted to accept the recommendation from the Artistic Director Search Committee to appoint Matthew Gardiner Signature Theatre’s new Artistic Director. The Artistic Director Search committee, comprised of artists, Signature staff and Board members, voted unanimously to appoint Gardiner after an exhaustive nationwide search facilitated by AlbertHall&Associates that began in November 2020.
“On behalf of the Board of Directors, we are so excited that Matthew Gardiner will be leading Signature Theatre as the next Artistic Director,” said Board Chair Dottie Bennett. “Matthew is an extraordinary artist, advocate for inclusiveness, and has a strong vision for Signature’s future and for the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead. We are excited to see the innovation, artistry, and excellence he will bring to Signature both on stage and off.”
“I’m humbled and thrilled that the search committee and Signature’s Board have entrusted me with this position,” stated Gardiner. “Signature is a theater that I’m immensely proud of, in a town that has been my artistic home for many years. I see clearly the challenges we face in this moment, but mostly I see the exciting possibilities that lie before us. I’m committed to ensuring the art and the artists in this community flourish and to building a future that is brighter for all of us.”
The Washington Post named Gardiner “among the top young musical-theater directors in the land.” At Signature Theatre he has directed and/or choreographed more than 25 productions, including much lauded revivals of A Chorus Line, West Side Story, and Jelly’s Last Jam. As Signature’s Associate Artistic Director for over a decade, he helped to build several groundbreaking seasons, cultivated relationships with prominent and emerging artists, and oversaw several of Signature’s new work development initiatives. Outside of Signature, Gardiner has directed and/or choreographed at most of the prominent regional theaters in the Washington, DC area and has also worked abroad for OD Musical Company in Seoul, Korea. Gardiner is the recipient of three Helen Hayes Awards for Outstanding Director of a Musical and has been honored with more than a dozen nominations.
Moving Toward The Future
As Artistic Director, Matthew Gardiner joins Managing Director Maggie Boland in a joint leadership model and will work with Signature’s Board and staff on shared goals for the future that strengthen its reputation as “a musical theater powerhouse” (The Washington Post) and fulfill its immense potential for growth and change while continuing to build upon its strong organizational capabilities.
“One of my first priorities as Artistic Director will be to build a new artistic team for Signature, adding collaborators who will be vital parts of not only the Theatre’s artistic future but also to our senior leadership team going forward,” stated Gardiner. “I’m committed to building a team that includes viewpoints and backgrounds differing from my own.” As such a national search for the positions of Associate Artistic Director and a Director of Artistic Development will begin immediately. Additionally three new artistic positions have been appointed: Jorge Acevedo has been promoted from Casting & Executive Coordinator to the position of Casting Director/Manager of Artistic Programs, Chelsea Pace (Co-Founder of Theatrical Intimacy Education, author of Staging Sex) will join Signature for the 2021/22 Season as Resident Intimacy Consultant, and musician and music director Mark G. Meadows (After Midnight, Jelly’s Last Jam) will be Director of Signature Cabarets.
Gardiner and Boland will also continue to lead Signature in its ongoing journey to become an anti-oppressive and anti-racist company; work that Board and staff at all levels of the organization have been undertaking thoughtfully and thoroughly with the help of Wayfinding Partners for more than a year. Signature has made many commitments internally, has implemented several new practices, and is finalizing a Racial Equity action plan for future work to focus on becoming a more inclusive theater and a supportive and safe environment for everyone who enters its doors.
Gardiner added, “I fell in love with Signature because of its dedication to the American musical. I’m honored to carry that forward, including making an even more robust commitment to the development of new work. One of my highest priorities is creating a supportive home for emerging composers and playwrights, especially those whose voices have been historically underrepresented on the American stage.” Gardiner plans to ramp up Signature’s work commissioning and developing more new musicals and plays with a special focus on work by people with disabilities, people of color, members of the LGBTQ+ community, and women.
About the Search
AlbertHall&Associates, a full service executive recruiting firm providing services to America’s leading arts organizations, began the search process in November by gathering feedback from a range of stakeholders, including members of local community, artists, national leaders in the theater field, the Artistic Director Search Committee, and Signature’s staff and board, on the qualifications for an ideal candidate, using the input to create a position profile that was widely distributed. The field of applicants that AlbertHall&Associates recruited and evaluated included nearly 100 potential candidates; the Search Committee conducted in-depth interviews with nine final candidates.
Composer/lyricist Adam Gwon (Ordinary Days, Cake Off), member of the Artistic Director Search Committee, shared, “I’m proud to have been part of the team that recommended Matthew Gardiner as Signature’s next Artistic Director. The candidate pool was inspiring and diverse, and leaves no doubt about the robust future of the American theater. Matthew’s vision for Signature is impressive in its depth; ambition; and, most importantly, its continued uplift of new voices in musical theater, all grounded in his genuine connection to the DC community. I can’t wait to see how Signature will grow under Matthew’s leadership.”
DC’s Helen Hayes Award-winning actress Nova Y. Payton (After Midnight, Dreamgirls), also a member of the Search Committee, said, “It was Matthew who shared the most exciting and forward-thinking vision for Signature. Matthew has long shown his commitment to the artists in DC and to bringing new voices to the stage, and in this new role he will take that to another level – to the benefit Signature and our whole community. I know he is the person to carry Signature into the future.”
Maggie Boland, Signature Managing Director, stated, “Having worked with Matthew and witnessed his passion and integrity for more than 13 years, I’m thrilled to work with him as a partner to usher in a new era for Signature. Matthew is a prodigiously talented director and choreographer whose gifts will continue to shine on Signature’s stages. Further, we share an unwavering commitment to making Signature a place where audiences can experience a broad spectrum of work in an atmosphere of great joy and where artists and staff can do their very best work in a supportive and collaborative culture. Signature’s upcoming 2021/22 season, which we are thrilled to announce along with Matthew’s appointment to Artistic Director, demonstrates these commitments in real time, with diverse storytelling and representation of multiple voices, Signature’s trademark mix of reimagined musicals and new work, and a host of the finest artists working in the theater today.” Learn more about the Season here
About Matthew Gardiner
At Signature Theatre, Matthew Gardiner has directed and/or choreographed more than 25 productions, including much lauded revivals of A Chorus Line, West Side Story, La Cage aux Folles, Jelly’s Last Jam, and The Threepenny Opera, as well as several world premieres including Paul Downs Colaizzo’s Really Really, Nick Blaemire’s Soon, and Josh Schmidt and Royce Vavrek’s Midwestern Gothic. With Signature’s special commitment to producing the work of Stephen Sondheim, Matthew has directed and/or choreographed many Sondheim musicals including Passion, Sunday in the Park with George, Company, Sweeney Todd and the world premiere theatrical concert Simply Sondheim. As The Washington Post said about Matthew’s work, “an overarching keen intelligence seems to be a hallmark of Matthew Gardiner’s direction, from brassy musicals to taut intimate dramas…all have been first-rate in execution.”
As Signature’s Associate Artistic Director for over a decade, Matthew helped to build several groundbreaking seasons, cultivated relationships with prominent and emerging artists, and oversaw several of Signature’s new work development initiatives, including the American Musical Voices Project (one of the largest musical theater commissioning programs in the country), SigWorks: Monday Night Play Reading Series (highlighting the work of DC area playwrights) and the Signature/Yale Composer Partnership, which seeks to give opportunity to early career composers.
Over the past year, in the midst of a global pandemic that has made live performance impossible, Matthew has worked to make certain Signature continues to engage its current audience with bold and exciting new artistic content, while also actively working to expand Signature’s reach to a broader audience. Matthew selected and planned Signature’s current 2021 Season, Signature Features, which includes five fully produced productions that can be streamed from home in partnership with Marquee TV.
Outside of Signature, Matthew has directed and/or choreographed at most of the prominent regional theaters in the Washington, DC area including Arena Stage, Ford’s Theatre, The Kennedy Center, Round House Theatre, Shakespeare Theatre Company, and Studio Theatre. Matthew has also worked abroad, choreographing Titanic and directing and choreographing Doctor Zhivago for OD Musical Company in Seoul, Korea. Matthew is the recipient of three Helen Hayes Awards for Outstanding Director of a Musical and has been honored with more than a dozen nominations.