A nonprofit theatre selling tickets for just $20 is bringing one of the world’s most renowned architects to New York’s pricey theatrical district.

An arts centre designed by FRANK GEHRY and originally intended for ground zero will anchor a new complex including a hotel, cafe and book store.

Despite the recession, the $800 million, 59 story SIGNATURE CENTER is a strong example of how New York transcends itself and keeps evolving.

Just before Christmas – amidst the clanging noises of work proceeding above and nearby traffic – a jubilant crowd joined playwrights JOHN GUARE, EDWARD ALBEE and TONY KUSHNER, along with City Council Speaker Christine Quinn. She was instrumental in helping finalize the public/private partnership, which allows 160 of the 800 residential units on site to be reserved for low income housing.

TIME WARNER will subsidize the $20 tickets.

About two thirds of the $60 million needed for the off Broadway arts complex already has been raised, with the city contributing $25 million for a performance venue.

TONY KUSHNER, famed for his Broadway production of ANGELS IN AMERICA, which explored AIDS, homophobia, religion and politics, was chosen as the featured playwright for the first season.

“The American playwriting community has never been more thriving with talent and interest and no theatre serves our community better than Signature does,” said the PULITZER PRIZE winner.

FRANK GEHRY, who was not present, said in a statement that he believes in SIGNATURE’S “mission of creating innovative theatre” and was looking forward to watching the first performance slated for 2012.

FRANK GEHRY’S work includes dramatic sculptural buildings such as the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, and the WALT DISNEY CONCERT HALL in Los Angeles. He won architecture’s top honour – the PRITZKER PRIZE – in 1989.

The firm ARQUITECTONICA and architect ISMAEL LEYVA are creating the rest of the energy efficient centre being constructed by Related Companies.

THE SIGNATURE, a 20 year old independent theatre group, was originally one of four arts linked institutions considered for the World Trade Center site. Three have moved on.

The surviving candidate was an auditorium to be used mostly for dance by THE JOYCE THEATER.

The theatre company’s founder and artistic director JAMES HOUGHTON is busy detailing plans for what he called “a home for many diverse writers to create work that engages even more artists and audiences.”

The new SIGNATURE – now performing elsewhere on 42nd Street – will present the works of major current playwrights as well emerging artists, plus the lifetime achievements of artists from the company’s past.



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