Joe Calarco on Being Named Resident Director and Director of New Works at Signature Theatre

After a very busy week, after being named Resident Director and Director of New Works at Signature Theatre, Multiple Helen Hayes Award-winning director/playwright Joe Calarco, who has directed 14 productions at Signature, chimed in:

Joe Calarco.
Joe Calarco.

“Taking a position at a theater has been something that I have been seriously open to for the past few years. One of the major reasons was personal. I’ve been very fortunate to be able to work so much, but for the past 3 or 4 years I have been traveling 8 to 9 months out of the year. Again, I’m very grateful for all the work, but I’ve been looking for a little more balance in my live overall. But I knew if I was going to take such a step it would have to be the perfect position in the perfect place. Well, Eric basically presented me with that ideal opportunity. I love DC. I have family and so many friends here. And Signature has been an artistic home for me for 15 years. On top of all of that the position just enables me to work on everything I love most in the theater, and I’m excited to help carry out Eric’s continued forward thinking vision for Signature. It’s extraordinary what’s he’s created here. And I still have the opportunity to freelance. I’m still on the East coast and a hop skip and a jump away from friends and colleagues in NYC. It’s and ideal job in every way and I couldn’t be more excited.”

Joe joins Artistic Director Eri Schaeffer, Associate Artistic DirectorMatthew Gardiner, and Managing Director Maggie Boland as the producing team at Signature. He begins his new position on December 1, 2014. This Joe Calarco fan is thrilled!

From James Gardiner, Publicist/Community Relations Manager of Signature Theatre:

Virginia ’s Signature Theatre has appointed Joe Calarco to the new position of Resident Director/Director of New Works. In this position, Calarco will continue to strengthen Signature’s commitment to new work by shepherding the development of new musicals and plays and actively seeking the work of original and diverse voices. Calarco will also direct 1-2 shows per season and will continue his work withSignature in The Schools, Signature’s flagship education program.

Signature’s Artistic Director Eric Schaeffer stated, “I’m thrilled to welcome Joe to the Signature Theatre family full-time. He’s contributed so much to this organization both on-stage and off with his directing and working with students in our education program. It’s wonderful to have Joe’s talents added to the Signature team.” Managing Director Maggie Boland added, “All of us at Signature are so looking forward to working with Joe in this new role. Bringing him on board full-time, year-round, is an important investment in Signature’s commitment to developing and producing new plays and musicals. Joe will play an integral role in helping us discover and nurture new playwrights and composers, and we can’t think of a better way to build on and celebrate our history during this 25th anniversary season than by increasing our artistic capacity with this new position.”

Over the last 16 years, Joe Calarco has directed 14 productions at Signature Theatre including the world premiere production ofNjinsky’s Last Dance, the DC premieres of Side Show and Urinetownand a critically acclaimed revival of Stephen Sondheim’s Assassins. As a playwright, Calarco has presented three works at Signature Theatre; In the Absence of Spring, Walter Cronkite is Dead, andShakespeare’s R & J. Last season, Calarco directed Signature Theatre’s successful revival of Gypsy which was called “D.C.’s finest musical revival in years” by The Washington Post. Calarco is a winner of the Lucille Lortel Award and is a four time Helen Hayes Award recipient. In 2014, he received a Drama Desk nomination for Outstanding Director of a Play for his Off-Broadway production of A Christmas Carol.

Upon accepting this new position, Calarco stated, “For 15 years Signature Theater has given me the opportunity to do some of the most fulfilling work of my career, so I couldn’t be more excited to be able to now really call it home. Signature is one of America ’s most important incubators of new work, and with this new position I’m thrilled to be able to continue and expand on that amazing mission.”

Joe’s Off Broadway credits include the world premieres of Boy and In Transit (Drama Desk nomination Best Director), at Primary Stages,The Burnt Part Boys and Floyd and Clea Under the Western Sky at Playwrights Horizons, the world premieres of The Summer of the Swans and Sarah, Plain and Tallat the Lucille Lortel, the world premiere of The Mistress Cycle for The New York Musical Theatre Festival, the world premiere of Fugitive Songs (Drama Desk Award for Best Musical Revue), and the first New York revival of Bury the Dead and The Memory Show for The Transport Group. He was just nominated for a Drama Desk Award for directing Patrick Barlow’s adaptation of A Christmas Carol. Joe is the adaptor/director ofShakespeare’s R&J, which ran for a year and earned him a Lucille Lortel Award. He also directed the play’s premieres in Chicago (5 Jeff Award nominations including Best Play and Best Director), Washington , D.C. (Helen Hayes Award nominations for Best Play and Best Director), London (Evening Standard Award honorable mention Best Director) and Tokyo.

Regionally Joe has won Best Director Barrymore Awards for bothOrdinary Days at 11th Hour Theatre Company and The Light in the Piazza at Philadelphia Theatre Company, which garnered a further 6 awards including Best Musical. Other shows at PTC include The Last Five Years (Barrymore Award Best Musical), Elegies (Barrymore nomination Best Director and Best Musical), and M. Butterfly. He is an Artistic Associate at Signature Theatre in Arlington Virginia, where he has directed Assassins (Helen Hayes Award Best Director), the world premiere of Nijinsky’s Last Dance (Helen Hayes Awards for Best Director and Best Play), Side Show (Helen Hayes Awards for Best Director and Best Musical), Urinetown(a record breaking 8 Helen Hayes Awards including Best Director and Best Musical),Gypsy (Helen Hayes nominations for Best Director and Best Musical), Elegies: a song cycle (Helen Hayes nomination Best Musical), God of Carnage, the world premiere of Nest, the world premiere of The Boy Detective Fails, and the world premieres of his own plays Walter Cronkite is Dead and  In The Absence of Springwhich premiered in New York as the inaugural production of Second Stage’s New Plays Uptown series under his own direction. Other regional work includes the world premiere of Lincolnesque and The Glass Menagerieat the Old Globe, the world premieres of the musical The Burnt Part Boys, The Memory Show, and The Mysteries of Harris Burdick (also book writer), as well as Kiss Me Kate, Breaking the Code, and Romance in Hard Times at Barrington Stage Company, the world premiere of Short Order Stories for Charter Theatre in Virginia, the world premiere of The Religion Thing at Theater J in Washington DC, his adaptation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream at The Shakespeare Theatre Company in D.C, and Of Mice and Men and My Fair Lady at the Hangar Theatre. At the O’Neill Musical Theatre Conference he has directedBroadcast, The Toymaker, Sarah Plain and Tall, In Transit, Picnic at Hanging Rock,and The Shadow Sparrow. He directed Sam I Was as part of the Yale Institute for Musical Theater. He directed Sweeney Todd for Carnegie Mellon University . He directed Twice Charmed: an original twist on the Cinderella story for Disney Creative Entertainment, and his reworking of Ring of Fire: the music of Johnny Cashtoured the U.S for over a year.

As a playwright, Joe’s published works include In The Absence Of Spring The Best Stage Scenes of 2004), Shakespeare’s R&J (Lucille Lortel Award), Walter Cronkite is Dead (world premiere Signature Theatre), and his short plays, Just A Little Sniffle and Parting Gifts.Other adaptations include A Midsummer Nights Dream, which was produced at The Shakespeare Theater Company in Washington D.C. and Antigone Renewed which had its first workshop at the National Theater in London. His commissioned play A Measure of Cruelty was produced by Mosaic Theater and received a Carbonell Award nomination as Best New Work. He is the book writer for the musicals Golden Gate with composer/lyricist Richard Pearson Thomas (developed at Second Stage and a reading at Lincoln Center) and The Mysteries of Harris Burdick with composer Chris Miller and lyricist Nathan Tysen, which had its West End premiere in conjunction with Mercury Musical Developments in London and its U.S. premier at Barrington Stage Company as part of William Finn’s Musical Theatre Lab. He is the book writer for the musical The Last Days of Cleopatra, and he was a contributing book writer of The Audience (Drama Desk Nomination) for The Transport Group. His work for young audiences includes Aladdin (The Hangar Theatre) and My Vacation in Paris , Salat, Civil Wars, Aftershock, Shakespeare, Will, Image is Everything, Revolution, and Hero Worship all for Signature Theatre in Virginia . Upcoming: The musicalSCKBSTDwith songs by Bruce Hornsby, Home Front: a play with songs with composer/lyricist Adam Gwon, his latest full length play In The Attic, his latest work for young audiences, Empire (working title),to be produced at Signature Theater in the Spring of 2015, and the book for Wolf a theater/dance piece to be produced by Theater Raleigh in North Carolina in January of 2015. He was resident playwright at Expanded Arts for two years and is a member of the Dramatists Guild.

Joe is co-artistic director of Breaking Bread Theatre. He served as resident playwright at Expanded Arts, Inc. for two years and as Resident Director at Barrington Stage Company. He has been a Joseph Papp artist in residence at Second Stage, is one of New York Theatre Workshop’s “usual suspects,” and is a Drama League directing fellow. He sits on the Executive Board of the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society (SDC). Graduate: Ithaca College . Upcoming projects: The Circus in Winter at Goodspeed and The Nutcracker at Round House.


Recipient of the 2009 Regional Theatre Tony Award®, Signature Theatre is a non-profit professional theater company in Arlington , Virginia dedicated to producing contemporary musicals and plays, reinventing classic musicals, and developing new work. Under the leadership of co-founder and Artistic Director Eric Schaeffer and Managing Director Maggie Boland, Signature has presented 38 world premiere productions and is renowned for combining Broadway-quality productions with intimate playing spaces.

In addition to hosting the finest talent from the DC metropolitan area and New York, Signature has been home to such theatre luminaries as Chita Rivera, George Hearn, Hunter Foster, Emily Skinner, Ann Reinking, Marc Kudisch, Judy Kuhn, John Kander and Fred Ebb, Cameron Mackintosh, Terrence McNally, and the company’s signature composer, Stephen Sondheim. Since its founding in 1989, Signature has won 90 Helen Hayes Awards for excellence in the Washington, DC region’s professional theater and has been honored with 340 nominations.

Read Joe Calarco’s BlogSpot.

Orphie and the Book of Heroes at The Kennedy Center review by Joel Markowitz

Gypsy review at Signature Theatre by Derek Mong.

R&J review at Signature Theatre by David Friscic.


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Joel Markowitz
Joel Markowitz is the Publisher and Editor of DCMetroTheaterArts. He founded the site with his brother Bruce to help promote the vast riches of theatre and the arts in the DC Metro area that includes Maryland, Virginia, and DC theater and music venues, universities, schools, Children's theaters, professional, and community theatres. Joel is an advocate for promoting the 'stars of the future' in his popular 'Scene Stealers' articles. He wrote a column for 5 years called ‘Theatre Schmooze’ and recorded podcast interviews for DC Theatre Scene. His work can also be seen and read on BroadwayStars. Joel also wrote a monthly preview of what was about to open in DC area theatres for BroadwayWorld. He is an avid film and theater goer, and a suffering Buffalo Bills and Sabres fan. Joel was a regular guest on 'The Lunch and Judy Show' radio program starring Judy Stadt in NYC. Joel founded The Ushers Theatre Going Group in the DC area in 1990, which had a 25-year run when it took its final curtain call last year. Joel is a proud member of The American Critics Association.


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