We will remember 2010 as the year in which Arena Stage received three Helen Hayes nominations for outstanding resident musical and no one else – not even the venerable musicmeisters at Signature – got more than one. We will remember 2010 as the year in which Folger Theatre received three nominations for outstanding resident play. In other words, it was the best of times, and the worst of times, for eager theater artists as Helen Hayes Chair Victor Shargai revealed the names of the one hundred fifty-six nominees for the Awards’ twenty-six honors.
Arena’s three resident-musical nominations included, not unexpectedly, its widely-acclaimed production of Oklahoma!, but the company also received a nod for two earlier shows: Duke Ellington’s Sophisticated Ladies and Light in the Piazza. Joining the trio of Arena nominees were the Shakespeare Theatre’s first-ever musical, Candide, Signature’s Sweeney Todd, the Olney production of Annie, Little Shop of Horrors at Ford’s Theater, and Hairspray, at Toby’s Dinner Theatre.
Folger’s resident-play trifecta consisted of Hamlet, Henry VIII and the antic Orestes: A Tragic Romp. Joining Folger’s offerings among the nominated outstanding resident plays were Woolly Mammoth’s provocative Clybourne Park, Theater J’s New Jerusalem; Superior Donuts, produced at Studio, and two by Synetic – the Master and Margarita and Othello.
Notwithstanding Arena’s and Folger’s three-peats, no one theater dominated the nominations. Although the 2010 nominations did not feature small theaters as prominently as the 2009 nominations did, twenty-one (of fifty-one eligible) theaters had at least one nomination. (For those keeping score, Arena did snare 23 of the resident-theater nominations; Shakespeare and Folger each got 19).
“Theatre is a vibrant presence in our community and thereby enhances the lives of everyone in our ever-expanding region,” Helen Hayes Award Chair Victor Shargai asserted in announcing the nominees. “We all want it to be even better, in ways we can’t even imagine. And we are determined to make it so.”
Shargai also announced that No Rules Theater Company and Factory 449: a theatre collective would each receive the 2010 John Aniello Award for outstanding emerging theater company. Factory 449 had a powerful impact on the Washington area with its production of 4:48 Psychosis, Sarah Kane’s final play. No Rules, which performs both in the Washington area and in North Carolina, has demonstrated a notably eclectic taste, having recently produced both Neil Labute’s Some Girl(s) and You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.
“This recognition means a great deal to us,” No Rules co-Artistic Director Joshua Morgan said, “as it’s a token of appreciation for the constant work and support that our small staff, boards in both NC and DC and audiences give to us every day. We’re humbled and honored.”
Factory 449’s Producing Artistic Director Rick Hammerly was similarly pleased, both for the award and for the company Factory 449 is keeping. “Factory 449 is not only thrilled to be honored by the Helen Hayes Awards as an Outstanding Emerging Theatre Company, but proud to be receiving the award alongside the exciting No Rules Theatre Company,” he said. “Our missions are decidedly different, but we both strive for the same outcome: innovative theatre that challenges and entertains a new era of theatre audiences. Lovin’ me some Linda Levy Grossman, Victor Shargai and the Helen Hayes Rules Committee tonight!”
Shargai and Helen Hayes Awards President and CEO Linda Levy Grossman also announced that the organization will announce substantial changes in its governance, programming, staffing and funding within the next few months. Details are pending.
The 2011 Helen Hayes Awards will be held on Monday, April 25, 2011 at the Warner Theatre.
A complete list of nominees is here.