30th Helen Hayes Awards: Spreading the Wealth

"Gypsy” at Signature Theatre
"Gypsy” at Signature Theatre

No matter how much you change things, core things remain the same.

That was the case with the 30th annual presentation of the Helen Hayes Awards, held last Monday. The changes were big-time, sometimes startling, even confusing. But in the end, it was still the same old story – not a fight for love and glory but a celebration of the Washington-area theater community.

It’s a community that sometimes seems to be bursting at the seams, reflecting the almost boomtown growth of the city. But it’s also a community that seems to be coming more and more together in collaborative and identifiable ways. Here’s a change: the folks at Theatre Washington decided to hold the awards ceremonies at the National Building Museum. It’s a great space for what used to be called the biggest cast party ever, but not so much a theater space.

The proceedings – more often than not held at the Warner Theatre or the National Theatre, followed by a trip to a hotel ballroom for the big shindig – were altered in a way that proved in the long run to be more efficient. The whole thing was over by 10 p.m. (although the partying went on).

The set-up was three sessions of award-giving, with two very strict 20-minute intermissions. It began with food and drink, lots of both, and continued that way through the intermission. The effect was sometimes as if you were at a show on a cruise ship, which resulted in a lot of jostling, intermittent dancing and non-stop schmoozing.

And the business at hand, the handing out of awards got done almost – but not quite – at a fast and furious pace, with merry singers shuffling recipients off the stage if they got too long-winded. During the intermissions, an ominous gong that sounded almost like a cannon called folks back from partying.

As for the awards themselves, there were a few real surprises and a shock or two in the mix, but they seemed mostly about spreading the wealth, as opposed to honoring juggernauts.

What you saw was a parade of talented, gifted, high-spirited, often funny actors, performers, directors, leaders, costume and sound and set designers get their just rewards in the spirit of being honored by their peers and being part of a greater whole.

Having been to most of these affairs over the years – 30 years is a long time – this is the heart and soul of the awards. It’s what sets the Helen Hayes Awards apart from the Tonys or the Oscars, for instance. A play, after all, is always a collaborative effort, and so is a happening and celebration like this.

Victor Shargai, the longtime chairman of the Helen Hayes Awards and Theatre Washington, received the Helen Hayes Tribute for nurturing and helping to build and expand the group into one of the city’s major cultural forces. It is hoped that Shargai’s award is at least as much for his singular and original spirit and character, which was always on display, as for his achievements.

The Aaron Posner-penned play “Stupid F***ing Bird,” a modernist take on Chekhov’s “The Seagull,” received numerous nominations, allowing every host on the stage to gleefully drop the F-bomb on a gathered multitude of close to a couple thousand people. E. Faye Butler, the not-ever-demure performer who really should be a Washington treasure even though she lives elsewhere, gave the title a full-throated bluesy note when she tackled it.

And the winner for best resident play?

You guessed it. “Stupid F***ing Bird.”

Probably a bit surprising were the wins for ensemble cast and best resident musical by “Hello Dolly!” This joint production by Ford’s Theatre and Signature Theatre, staged at Ford’s, signals the rise of such projects. We saw it before in Arena Stage’s cooperative efforts with other companies in its O’Neill Festival and the citywide Shakespeare Festival a number of years ago. Kudos to Paul Tetreault at Ford’s and Eric Schaefer at Signature.

We saw familiar faces march up there or mingle: Ted van Griethuysen for a supporting actor award for Studio’s “The Apple Family” and Rick Foucheux, best actor for Round House Theatre’s “Glengarry Glen Ross.”

And we saw new faces in the crowd and on stage. The affair is always listed as black-tie, but from the beginning this has been an affair for young theater people, people who dress in bright colors, do outrageous dos, wear bowties that sparkle and shoes that have polka dots, and just generally dazzle with their high spirits. And they dance, they yell, they scream.

This year, they had a longer time and a bigger playpen. Break a leg indeed.

THE RECIPIENTS OF THE 30th ANNUAL HELEN HAYES AWARDS

OUTSTANDING DIRECTOR, RESIDENT MUSICAL Alan Paul, “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum,” Shakespeare Theatre Company

OUTSTANDING DIRECTOR, RESIDENT PLAY Mitchell Hebert, “Glengarry Glen Ross,” Round House Theatre

OUSTANDING CHOREOGRAPHY, RESIDENT MUSICAL Karma Camp, “Hello Dolly!,” Ford’s Theatre and Signature Theatre

OUTSTANDING MOVEMENT, RESIDENT PLAY Irina Tsikurishvili and Ben Cunis, “The Three Musketeers,” Synetic Theater

OUTSTANDING MUSIC DIRECTION, RESIDENT PRODUCTION Jon Kalbfleisch, “Gypsy,” Signature Theatre

OUTSTANDING SET DESIGN, RESIDENT PRODUCTION Clint Ramos, “Appropriate,” Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company

OUTSTANDING LIGHTING DESIGN, RESIDENT PRODUCTION Andrew F. Griffin, “Henry V,” Folger Theatre

OUTSTANDING COSTUME DESIGN, RESIDENT PRODUCTION Merrily Murray-Walsh, “Mary T & Lizzy K,” Arena Stage

OUTSTANDING SOUND DESIGN, RESIDENT PRODUCTION Eric Shimelonis, “Never The Sinner,” 1st Stage

OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING PERFORMER, VISITING PRODUCTION Samantha Marie Ware, “The Book of Mormon,” The Kennedy Center

OUTSTANDING LEAD ACTRESS, VISITING PRODUCTION Rachel York, “Anything Goes,” The Kennedy Center

OUTSTANDING LEAD ACTOR, VISITING PRODUCTION Christopher John O’Neill, “The Book of Mormon,” The Kennedy Center

OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING ACTRESS, RESIDENT MUSICAL Erin Weaver, “Company,” Signature Theatre

OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING ACTOR, RESIDENT MUSICAL Bobby Smith, “Spin,” Signature Theatre

OUTSTANDING LEAD ACTRESS RESIDENT MUSICAL Diana Huey, “Miss Saigon,” Signature Theatre;

Jessica Vancaro, “A Chorus Line,” Olney Theatre Center

OUTSTANDING LEAD ACTOR RESIDENT MUSICAL James Gardiner, “The Last Five Years,” Signature Theatre

OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING ACTRESS RESIDENT PLAY Dawn Ursula, “The Convert,” Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company

THE JAMES MACARTHUR AWARD FOR OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING ACTOR, RESIDENT PLAY Ted van Griethuysen, “The Apple Family Plays,” The Studio Theatre

THE ROBERT PROSKY AWARD FOR OUTSTANDING LEAD ACTOR, RESIDENT PLAY Rick Foucheux, “Glengarry Glen Ross,” Round House Theatre

OUTSTANDING ENSEMBLE, RESIDENT MUSICAL “Hello, Dolly!,” Ford’s Theatre and Signature Theatre

OUTSTANDING ENSEMBLE, RESIDENT PLAY’ “Glengarry Glen Ross,” Round House Theatre

THE CHARLES MACARTHUR AWARD FOR OUTSTANDING NEW PLAY OR MUSICAL “Stupid F***ing Bird” by Aaron Posner, Woolly Mammoth Theatre

OUTSTANDING VISITING PRODUCTION “The Book of Mormon,” The Kennedy Center

OUTSTANDING PRODUCTION, THEATER FOR YOUNG AUDIENCES “Anime Momotaro,” Imagination Stage

OUTSTANDING RESIDENT MUSICAL “Hello Dolly!,” Ford’s Theatre and Signature Theatre; “A Chorus Line,” Olney Theatre Centre

OUTSTANDING RESIDENT PLAY “Stupid F***ing Bird,” Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company

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Mon, 1 Sep 2014 19:28:32 -0400

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