Small is big for 2009 Helen Hayes Awards Nominations

hhanomsTuesday, Jan 26, 2010 — Forum, GALA, Keegan, MetroStage and Rep Stage among Companies Nominated for Top Prizes .

1st Stage Wins Aniello Award for Outstanding Emerging Theatre Company.

The Helen Hayes judges have underscored the diversity of DC theatre excellence by nominating productions from smaller DC area theatres, along with those of nationally known companies like Arena, Studio, Shakespeare and Synetic, for outstanding resident musical and play productions.

In a ceremony last night at the Helen Hayes Gallery of the National Theatre, the Helen Hayes Awards organization recognized GALA’s production of Momia en el Closet: The Return of Eva Perón, and Keegan’s production of RENT to be among the most outstanding Resident Musicals of 2009, (the Canadian Embassy’s Outstanding Ensemble, Musical added Metro Stage’s Cool Papa’s Party and Show Boat at Signature) along with Studio Theater’s Adding Machine: A Musical, Ragtime (Kennedy Center) and Crowns and The Fantasticks, both produced by Arena Stage.

Forum’s Millennium Approaches – the first part of its two-part production of Angels in America – was nominated as an outstanding resident play, along with Rep Stages’ Wittenberg, Arena’s The Quality of Life, Synetic Theater’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Folger’s Arcadia, and King Lear and The Dog in the Manger, both produced by Shakespeare Theatre.

Overall, The Kennedy Center led the pack with 20 nominations, Shakespeare Theatre had fourteen resident play or musical nominations, Synetic Theater received twelve, and Arena Stage, Ford’s Theatre and Woolly Mammoth each garnered eleven.

Helen Hayes Awards Chair Victor Shargai also announced that 1st Stage, the Tyson’s Corner, VA company which has become noted for sharply-observed comedy and for giving roles to newly-minted professionals, has won the John Aniello Award for Outstanding Emerging Theater Company. Artistic Director Mark Krikstan later acknowledged “These first 18 months have been quite a ride, artistically and financially, and it’s wonderful to have this recognition from the theatre community.”’ 1st Stage follows Constellation Theatre (2008) and Taffety Punk (2007) in receiving Aniello Award recognition for the new dynamism which they are bringing to Washington area theatre.

Karl Miller won two nominations to the Robert Prosky Award as Outstanding Lead Actor in a Resident Play for his portrayal of a single character – the heroic Prior Walter in Forum’s two-part Angels in America. Also nominated were Stacy Keach in the title role of Shakespeare Theatre’s King Lear and Cody Nickell and Seth Reichgott for their performances in Folger’s Arcadia and Rep Stage’s Wittenberg, respectively.

It was also a big night for Holly Twyford, who nailed down three nominations as Outstanding Lead Actress in a Resident Play – for Folger’s Arcadia, Signature’s The Little Dog Laughed and Theater J’s Lost in Yonkers. The Theater J production also won a nomination for Tanya Hicken. Lisa Harrow (for Studio’s Rock ‘n’ Roll), Tonya Pickens (for Black Pearl Sings!, Ford’s Theatre) and Valerie Harper (a DCTS Audience Choice winner for her work in Arena’s Looped) were also nominated.

The musical nominations fell a little more widely. Sandy Bainum (The Music Man, Washington Savoyards), Jessica Lauren Ball (Oklahoma!, Toby’s Dinner Theatre), E. Faye Butler, (Crowns, Arena Stage), Laura Conforte (Momia en el closet: The Return of Eva Perón, GALA Hispanic Theatre), Tara Giordano (Heidi, Imagination Stage) and Christiane Noll (Ragtime, The Kennedy Center) won nominations as outstanding lead actresses in a resident musical, while David Benoit (Adding Machine: A Musical, The Studio Theatre), Quentin Earl Darrington (Ragtime, The Kennedy Center), Parker Drown (RENT, The Keegan Theatre), Will Gartshore (Show Boat, Signature Theatre), Jahi Kearse (Cool Papa’s Party, MetroStage) and Ashley Robinson (Giant, Signature Theatre) were nominated as outstanding lead actors.

Non-resident production nominations principally fell to A Streetcar Named Desire and August: Osage County, both of which played at the Kennedy Center, with some nominations for Pig Iron Theatre Company’s Hell Meets Henry Halfway, which played at Woolly Mammoth, and two nominations for Jim Brochu’s Zero Hour, a one-man show about Zero Mostel which played at Theater J.

New this year will be the Outstanding Production Award for Theatre for Young Audiences. Imagination Stage has three nominations (Lyle the Crocodile, Heidi, and Zomo the Rabbit), along with Barrio Grrrl! at the Kennedy Center and Synetic Family Theater’s Tale of the Fisherman.

This year, the Helen Hayes Awards were tabulated from ballots cast by sixty-three judges who viewed one hundred eighty-two productions at fifty-seven eligible theaters. This number is up significantly from 2008, where the judges looked at one hundred seventy-two productions at forty-five theaters.

The complete list of Helen Hayes Award nominees can be found on the Helen Hayes Awards Web site.

Now that the nominees have been announced, DCTS gets busy preparing for its annual ‘meet the nominees’ feature, leading up to the Helen Hayes Awards ceremony, Washington’s most glamorous night of theatre, to be held April 5, 2010 at the Warner Theatre.

Tim Treanor About Tim Treanor

Tim Treanor is a senior writer for DC Theatre Scene. He is a 2011 Fellow of the National Critics Institute and has written over 600 reviews for DCTS. His novel, "Capital City," with Lee Hurwitz, is scheduled for publication by Astor + Blue in November of 2016. He lives in a log home in the woods of Southern Maryland with his dear bride, DCTS Editor Lorraine Treanor. For more Tim Treanor, go to


  1. Regarding Karl Miller, please note that there are 63 judges of which I believe only 8 judges see each production.  They rate the production on a scale and the ratings are submitted and tallied.  Those receiving the highest scores are nominated.  It is possible that there were no judges in common amongst the 16 judges that reviewed the two productions and obviously, both performances were enough for 8 judges to merit it worthy of note.  Last, although they were both Angels in America, one was the first half and the other was the second half.  Due to length, this is more like two playsl.  It may have been one cast, but it was two productions and both deserve to be rated.

  2. Thank you for remembering Evil Dead, Dave. Landless doesn’t work for awards, we work for YOU. We’re still going strong at a time when so many theatre companies are struggling. That’s all because of the support and appreciation from people like you, and that’s means more to us than anything.
    And thank you Joel! Agreed, Karissa deserves an award for many things!
    Congrats to all the HH nominees. Great choices all around!

  3. Tim Treanor Slammo the Whale says:

    Well, Karl Miller played the same character in two different plays. It doesn’t seem odd to me that he would be nominated for two great performances in different plays. What’s the HH Judge supposed to do when he sees Miller being great in one of the two plays? Say “well, he’s great, but he was great in the other play too so I’m not going to score him well?”

  4. Ernie Joselovitz says:

    Too bad you didn’t mention the MacArthur Outstanding Play Nominations.  And the puzzling fact that Karen Zacarias’s LEGACY OF LIGHT was left unnominated.  It was, however, a very tough field this year, a tribute to the new-play activities of some of our theatres, for which they are to be congratulated.  It did seem, however, that Arena was pointedly dissed this year.
    Let me add as a praise-aside: Holly was splendid in the unusually-cast performance in LOST IN YONKERS at Theatre J!

  5. Joel Markowitz says:

    I agree with you Dave G. I loved EVIL DEAD too, and I was hoping Karissa Swanigan would have been nominated for her wild performance.

  6. It might just be me but I think Evil Dead: The Musical was grossly overlooked.  That was my FAVORITE musical from last year and it was completely shut out.  However “Showboat”, my LEAST favorite musical from last year, received  multiple nominations.  I mean, did they not see how that set worked in that tiny space? 

  7. Glad to see you mentioned that Holly Twyford got 3 nominations in very different roles. The Wash. Post failed to note this accomplishment.

  8. After having seen almost all of the theatre productions nominated for best resident play, I cannot express my utter disgust in the fact that the brilliant Karl Miller was nominated TWICE for playing the same character?!?!? Holly Twyford was nominated for EVERYTHING she did this year. This, like all other award ceremonies is a total sham and a gross misrepresentation to what makes DC a great theatre city.

  9. I agree with the comments – this is a wonderful representation of the quality and creative work coming from many of the smaller theater companies and I’m happy they were recognized along with the larger ones. All the best and a big congrats to the nominees. Well done…

  10. Yes, it was great for a change to see some smaller theatres getting recognition, especially MetroStage and Keegan, and some other newer theatres I plan to attend this season.  I’m especially thrilled for Imagination Stage.   The new TYA category is a great idea.  And thank you, Tara, for singing my songs in Heidi.  You rock!

  11. Congrats to all the nominees! And I agree with Carolyn about the ensemble category. Definitely a nice addition to the Helen Hayes Awards.

  12. Great that so many of the smaller theatre companies (MetroStage included) got such wide-spread recognition this year. In your article you don’t mention the ensemble nominations (I know you can’t cover everything!) but I think it is a great, relatively new, category, and I am thrilled that the two productions that were eligible from MetroStage this year were both recognized in that category: Cool Papa’s Party (with a cast who had the honor of being choreographed and in some cases taught to tap by the amazing Maurice Hines) and our little gem with three “heroes” on a park bench (Heroes).

  13. I was thrilled that Jim Brochu got two noms, especially when I saw what Zero Hour was up against, four huge Kennedy Center shows.
    I miss DC a lot. Theater J’s Ari Roth is a such a talented and kind artistic director.



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