Last night, The Helen Hayes Awards, Washington theatre’s most glamorous evening, was presented before a sold-out audience at the Warner Theatre.
Synetic Theatre’s production of Macbeth was the evening’s most honored play, winning five of the companies’ six awards, including Outstanding Resident Play, Director (Paata Tsikurishvili), Choreographer (Irina Tsikurishvili) and Ensemble. Studio Theatre’s Souvenir, A Fantasia on the Life of Florence Foster Jenkins, captured both the Outstanding Actor (J. Fred Schiffman) and Actress (Nancy Robinette) categories. When it came to musicals, the judges spread the awards evenly between Studio Theatre’s Reefer Madness (Outstanding Musical and Director, Keith Alan Baker with Co-Directors Matthew Gardiner and Ryan Christie), Signature’s Witches of Eastwick (Outstanding Lead Actor, Marc Kudisch and Supporting Actress, Karlah Hamilton) and Signature’s Merrily We Roll Along (Outstanding Musical Direction, Jon Kalbfleisch and Supporting Actor Erik Liberman).
The complete list of nominees and recipients is listed on the Helen Hayes Awards website.
The evening’s first award, the John Aniello Award for Outstanding Emerging Theatre Company, went to Taffety Punk Theatre. Marcus Kyd promised they will keep doing “awesome theatre at wicked cheap prices.” The Washington Post’s Leadership Award went to the team which made possible Arena Stage’s new theatre in Crystal City. The rarely awarded Governor’s Award went to long-time audience members Bob Davis and Henry Schalizki, presented by Helen Hayes Awards Board Co-Chair Victor Shargai who spoke movingly about live theatre. “It’s obvious what’s different about live theatre. The audience.”
The Helen Hayes Tribute for lifetime achievement went to one of the world’s most noted actors, Sir Derek Jacobi. In a speech which left the appreciative audience wanting more, he spoke about his love of acting, of working in film “It pays much, much better.” and noted “They call what we do a profession. They have a somewhat harsher term for the movies: the industry.”
This year’s ceremony was one of its most entertaining, inventive and smartly paced in memory, thanks to director Jerry Whiddon, writer Renee Calarco, the Helen Hayes Awards Singers (Eleasha Gamble, Emily Levey, Matthew Pearson, Stephen Schmidt, and Chris Sizemore) and the always syntillating Helen Hayes Awards orchestra led by Glenn Pearson.
There was no host, each presenting team deftly handing off the intros to the next. This year, the Costume Design Award, usually accompanied by sketches, featured live models wearing one costume for each nominated production. We know that was Meghan Grady in Lady Macbeth’s stunning red sheath. Was that really Will Gartshore in the gold tux, orange winged number from Edward II? (Reggie Ray won the Costume category for Studio’s Souvenir.)
In a very funny opening number, the Singers delivered the usual cell phone reminder with a clever parody of the ‘Telephone Hour’ from Bye Bye Birdie, including taking snaps of those in the audience “who got the aisle seats” and capped the evening off with singing the titles of all shows produced last year to G&S’ ‘I Am The Very Model of a Modern Major General.’ and sending us out to ‘O Happy Day’, or rather, ‘Go see a play.’
For once, theatre stopped traffic in DC, as the happy crowd of 2,000+ paraded against the 13th Street light on its way to the JW Marriott for the Helen Hayes Awards biggest cast party.
Many of the nominees are featured in DCTS’ 4 part ‘Getting Personal’ which begins here.