Eric Schaeffer is the Artistic Director of Signature Theatre Company. In its 20 years of existence – Signature has become a driving force in the regional theatre scene. Signature Theatre was awarded the 2009 Regional Theatre Tony Award. Eric is becoming well known all around the country with the current tour of Million Dollar Quartet, and recently his production of Stephen Sondheim’s Follies opened on Broadway at The Marquis Theatre to raves reviews. His memoir My Signature Story which is about the creation of Signature, was recently published.
Were you a performer before you became a director?
I did some community theatre growing up in Pennsylvania as well as some in the DC area when I moved here in 1984. My last role was Jesus in Godspell, so I figured that was a good role to retire with! People still haunt me about my wonderful (hmmm) performance!
Did you ever think when you started Signature Theatre that it would become the success it has?
No, we just set out to bring professional theatre to Arlington. When I look back at everything we’ve done and the amazing artists that we have collaborated with – it’s become an amazing journey that I’m quite proud of. We’ve always kept it about the art and never lost sight of that. It hasn’t always been easy – but it has always been worth it.
You have directed pretty much all of the shows in Sondheim’s canon. What’s your favorite Sondheim musical?
That’s a hard question. I love so many things about so many of his shows but if I had to pick one it would be Sunday in the Park With George. I’m always reminded of the song ‘Move On’ and Steve’s amazing lyrics which I find inspiring every day. When I hear ‘Stop worrying where you’re going, move on…’ it’s the perfect inspiration to keep doing things that I love.
There was a recent staged reading of Sondheim’s Evening Primrose in NYC not too long ago. Would you consider a stage adaptation of it for Signature?
We’ve looked into it but there are a number of legal issues surrounding the property and CBS. So eventually they will get it worked out. It will be great to have it on our Signature stage in the future.
What do you consider your greatest accomplishment so far?
I’ve been fortunate to wake up every day and do something that I love. For me, that’s really my greatest accomplishment. I’ve been fortunate to direct on Broadway, the West End and around the country, and always come home to Signature, but there’s more to life than that. I know people would be thrilled to have the opportunity for the experiences I’ve had. It’s not that I’m ungrateful – because all of these travels have been terrific life-changing experiences that I will cherish forever. But as artists we’re so lucky to do the very thing we love doing. Many people aren’t as fortunate. The fact that I can do what I love to do and collaborate with amazing artists – is very fulfilling and my greatest accomplishment.