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Theater News: Theater Washington Celebrates 40th Helen Hayes Awards

WASHINGTON D.C. – On 20 May 2024, the 40th Helen Hayes Awards took place at The Anthem in District Wharf, with over 1,600 theater makers and theater supporters in attendance. Dear Washington Theater Artists Felicia Curry, Rayanne Gonzales, Maria Rizzoand Holly Twyford hosted an evening that showcased the vibrant and diverse community of professional theater artists in the Washington region. They were joined by a scenic group of Square Brown, Carolyn Burke, Victoria Gomez, Sara Anne Sillersand Wooden Van Subway with special performances by two-time award winner Melody A. Betts, Tuyết Thị Phạm and James J. Johnson. The ceremony was written by Will Gartshore and co-directed by Will Gartshore and Raymond O. Caldwell.

In recognition of the work of 151 eligible productions presented in calendar year 2023, awards were presented in 41 categories. Productions considered in 2023 included 44 musicals, 107 plays and 36 world premieres. For the eighth year, the Helen Hayes Awards were presented in parallel tracks determined by the proportion of Actors’ Equity contracts involved in an individual production, recognized as winners in the “Helen” or “Hayes” categories. For the second year, artists were judged as gender-inclusive (versus gender-segregated “actor” and “actress”), with ten or 11 nominees and two winners in each acting category.

Topping the list of individual theater organizations receiving Helen Hayes Awards this year were Arena Stage and The Keegan Theatre. Each received six awards for their work in 2023. seusic received all six of The Keegan Theatre’s awards, including Best Production, Musical Helen. Arena Stage received three for Swept (Musical, Hayes), two for Angels in America, part one: The millennium is approaching (Play, Hayes), and one for Exclusion (Play, Hayes). Arena Stage received an additional award along with Alley Theatre, Berkeley Repertory Theater and ACT Theatre/5th Avenue for Cambodian rock band (Play, Hayes).

Fela! (Musical, Hayes), a co-production of the Olney Theater Center and Round House Theater took home five awards, including Best Production (Musical, Hayes). Solas Nua received three awards for The honey trap (Play, Helen) and Toby’s Dinner Theater received three awards for something rotten (Musical, Helena).

Featured Productions in 2023 were for The jungle by STC and Woolly Mammoth Theater Company (visiting production), A year with frog and toad from Imagination Stage (Theater for Young Audiences), La Salpetriere by Taffety Punk Theater Company (Play, Helen) and My mom and the large scale invasion by Woolly Mammoth Theater Company and The Wilma Theater (Play, Hayes).

The 40th Helen Hayes Tribute Honored Peter Marks, Former Theater Critic of the Washington Post. Marks resigned at the end of 2023 after serving in this role for 21 years. This award recognizes Marks’ decades of intelligent and thoughtful writing about the DC area’s national and international theater landscape. He offered nuanced theater criticism and reporting and contributed greatly to the recognition of the artistic vitality of our region.

This year’s awards show was supported by a variety of hosts and sponsors. Sheila Johnson and the Honorable William J. Newman, Jr., served as this year’s honorary chairs along with event chair Jan Du Plain.

Production sponsors included Andrew A. Ammerman, Jan Du Plain, Meg and John Hauge, Dr. Judy Kuriansky, Craig Pascal, Alan J. Savada and Will Stevenson. Co-chairs included Michael Burke and Carl Smith, Claire Carlin, Janet Farrell, Myrna Fawcett, Holly Hassett, Kevin Hennessy, Karina Hou, John Kiser, David A. Lamdin, Abel Lopez, Shahin D. Mafi, Dale A. Mott and Charles . D. Urstadt, Bonnie Nelson Schwartz, Robin Phillips and Annie Simonian Totah of the Sami and Annie Totah Family Foundation.

This year’s host committee included Drs. Nathan and Debbie Ann Doyle Ainspan, Jacqueline Badger Mars, Jeffrey and Stacie Lee Banks, Sherrie Beckstead, Susan and Dixon Butler, Debra Chandler, Prima and Chas Colburn, Leayne Dempsey, Kimberly E. Douglas and Maria Manuela Goyanes, Gary P. Fontaine and O’Shelya Brown, Edie Fraser, Brett and Cynthia Fuller, Handan Gencogluer, Barbara Hawthorn, Randy C. Howes, Debbie M. Jackson and Bill Lammers, Cliftine Jones, Elizabeth A. Karcher and Arthur A. Cohen, Renée Klish, Catherine Leggett , Jason Loewith, Howard Menaker and Patrick Gossett, David and Rita Sirignano, Lisa Stark, Carmen Stull, Graciela Thomen Ginebra and Linda White.

The 40th Helen Hayes Awards were also supported by Events DC, Destination DC, Giant Food, The Share Fund, TodayTix and Washington Post.

Produced and administered by Theater Washington, the Helen Hayes Awards honor excellence in professional theater in the Washington metropolitan area. A complete list of awardees is available at theatrewashington.org or at these links:

All recipients (alpha by name)

Recipients by production (count)

Recipients by production (alpha)

Recipients by theater (count)

Recipients by theater (alpha)

The Helen Hayes Awards, named after actress Helen Hayes, Washington native and legendary First Lady of the American Theatre, have honored excellence in professional theater throughout the Washington region for four decades.

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About the Washington Theater
Through partnerships and collaborative programs, Theater Washington supports the Washington, DC area professional theater community to celebrate artistic achievements, strengthen the theater workforce, support institutional growth and advancement, and cultivate collective action. Theater Washington’s major programs include: the Helen Hayes Awards, Theater Week, Theater Work, and Taking Care Fund.

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