The atmosphere was electric while waiting for the doors to open for the Helen Hayes Nominees event. It was quite an eclectic theatre crowd all abuzz and jovial meeting once again for this annual celebration of theatrical excellence. Helen Hayes, a native Washingtonian, has been christened, “The First Lady of the American Theater”, so where else is more appropriate than within walking distance of the White House and at the National Theater.
Once inside we were offered scrumptious food and wine selections and time for theatre artists, administrators, patrons, and special guests to gather, reconnect and praise each others’ achievements. All were welcome and made to feel comfortable as the anticipation heightened for the main event. theatreWashington’s President and CEO Amy Austin joyfully welcomed everyone personally as she was joined by some of the region’s most celebrated and prolific theatre artists, including Tẹmídayọ Amay, Regina Aquino, Frank Britton, Allyson Currin, Felicia Curry, Lady Dane Figueroa Edidi, Rick Hammerly, Helen Hedman, Sabrina Mandell, and Deidra LaWan Starnes. 255 nominations in 47 categories were announced by this entertaining crew in the National Theaters Helen Hayes Gallery. They will all be co-hosts and joined with Justin Weaks, Holly Twyford, Bobby Smith, Mark Jaster, Felicia Curry (2018 recipient and 2020 nominee) and Naomi Jacobson (13 time nominee and two-time recipient) all as presenters at the 2020 Helen Hayes Awards ceremony on May 18th at The Anthem waterfront DC.
It was quite an eclectic theatre crowd all abuzz and jovial meeting once again for this annual celebration of theatrical excellence.
Austin commented, “Each year I am delighted to usher in the Helen Hayes Awards season with a celebration of the phenomenal work being produced in the Washington, DC region. This year is no exception. There were 185 eligible productions so I am deeply grateful to our panel of judges for their commitment and thoughtful selections.” Recognizing work from 185 eligible productions presented in the 2019 calendar year, 255 nominations were made in 47 categories and grouped in “Helen” or “Hayes” cohorts, depending on the number of Equity members involved in the production. Nominations are the result of 40 carefully vetted judges considering 2,570 individual pieces of work, such as design, direction, choreography, performances, and more. Productions under consideration in 2019 included 46 musicals, 139 plays, and 45 world premieres.
The John Aniello Award for Outstanding Emerging Theater Company is selected each year by the Emerging Theater Committee of theatreWashington. This year’s eligible companies include 4615 Theater Company, Angel Rose Artist Collective, Best Medicine Rep, and Theater Prometheus. Qualifying theaters must produce at least one show per year, with a minimum of nine performances each, for two consecutive years.
Olney Theater Center and 1st Stage saw the most number of nominations for a theater, with 27 and 18 respectively. The most nominated productions include: “Little Shop of Horrors” at Constellation Theater Company (with 11), “Blood at the Root” at Theater Alliance (with 10), A Chorus Line at Signature Theater (with 9), “Cabaret” at Olney Theater Center (with 9), “Cyrano de Bergerac” at Synetic Theater (with 9), and “Into the Woods” at Ford’s Theater (with 9). My personal favorite which was nominated a couple of times and for which I am rooting is, “A Christmas Story” at Toby’s Dinner Theatre.
The highlight was a very personal award nomination for Bonnie Nelson Schwartz who will receive the 2020 Helen Hayes Tribute Award in May. She is the original producer of the Helen Hayes Awards, a Broadway and television producer with more than 100 plays, films, television programs and concerts in Washington, DC, New York and London to her credit. Her most recent project, Traveling While Black, was nominated for a 2019 Emmy Award for Outstanding Original Interactive Program. The award is well deserved.
It was a spectacular night of praise, laughter and revelry which all will remember. This event sets it up perfectly for the upcoming Helen Hayes Awards ceremony in May, which will be a gala not to be missed.
The 2020 Helen Hayes Awards will take place on Monday, May 18th, 2020 at The Anthem – 901 Wharf Street, SW, in Washington, DC.
The administration and celebration of the Helen Hayes Awards is just one element of theatreWashington’s mission, which is to strengthen, represent, and support all segments of the Washington’s professional theater community, including theater companies, artists, staff, and diverse audiences of all ages. Over more than three decades of support and advocacy, theatreWashington has played a vital role in the transformation of the city’s cultural identity, with the resulting revitalization of the whole community.