Arlington Signature Theatre director discusses special relationship with Sondheim

Prolific and celebrated Broadway composer Stephen Sondheim, 91, had an enormous impact on theatres around the world. In the D.C. area, the impact of his death was visible at Signature Theatre in Arlington, Virginia.

After his death on Friday, WTOP spoke with Matthew Gardiner, the artistic director for the theatre, about Sondheim’s continuous impact on the community. Gardiner said losing the icon was devastating.

“He’s been hugely important to us,” Gardiner said, “and he’s definitely Signature’s signature.”

Gardiner recalled the moment that Sondheim came to the Virginia theatre’s showing of Passion in the Garage.

The theatre director said that being around him was amazing, though occasionally terrifying, and generous.



“A few times I got to pick him up from the train station and, for a young person, that is terrifying,” he said. “There is a god sitting right next to you in the car and he just made everyone feel at ease.”

In previous years, the theatre has hosted at least one Sondheim piece during their season. Throughout the pandemic, events like “Simply Sondheim,” a 30-song pre-recorded revue approved by the revered composer, continued the theatre’s work despite pandemic limitations.

While the Signature Theatre will not use a Sondheim show during the current season, he remains an important part of Signature’s work and his productions will continue to populate coming playbills.

The theatre also presents a Sondheim Award Gala and has maintained renown for its Sondheim productions.

WTOP’s Sandy Kozel contributed to this report.

Ivy Lyons

Ivy Lyons is a digital journalist for WTOP.com. Since 2018, they have worked on Capitol Hill, at NBC News in Washington, and with WJLA in Washington.

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