How to hold an awards ceremony that has always been as much about bringing the community of theatre makers and theatre supporters together as it was about the awards themselves, during a pandemic? While other awards have settled for abbreviated online shows, The Helen Hayes Awards, now in its 36th year of recognizing excellence on Washington-area stages, has decided to expand the time given over to their nominees and recipients with a series of Zoom presentations over four weeks, starting August 31, leading up to a big online celebration on September 25, 2020.
And, for the first time in its history, all events are free and open to everyone.
The 2020 Helen Hayes Awards recognizes the outstanding work on Washington-area stages in 2019.
Last year, 185 productions – 46 musicals, 139 plays – were eligible, resulting in 255 nominations in 47 categories and grouped in “Helen” or “Hayes” cohorts, depending on the number of Equity members involved in the production. Nominations are the responsibility of 40 carefully vetted judges who considered 2,570 individual pieces of work, such as design, direction, choreography, performances, and more.
This year, though adjudicated as “actor” and “actress”, 16 performance categories are being renamed and will be integrated and presented as gender-inclusive Awards–listed, for example, as Outstanding Lead Performer and Outstanding Supporting Performer, with two recipients in each category.
The announcement of the Helen Hayes Award recipients, as they are revealed on the Zoom calls, will go out over social media via theatreWashington’s Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter feeds.
But if you prefer to be in the virtual room when it happens, the individual Zoom events are open to everyone. theatreWashington anticipates that each award announcement will run 25 – 30 minutes.
The Virtual Helen Hayes Awards Friday, September 25, 2020: As a culmination of the 2020 Helen Hayes Awards celebrations, the community will gather together virtually for the main event. Co-hosted by Washington stage luminaries Felicia Curry and Naomi Jacobson, the show will include additional award announcements–for outstanding productions, ensembles, and the John Aniello Award for Outstanding Emerging Theatre Company–in addition to other announcements, stories, remembrances, special guest appearances, and fun surprises.
Registration will be available soon.