Wide Winners' Circle at Helen Hayes Awards

Ted Van Griethuysen, playing Cymbeline in the Shakespeare Theatre Company's 2011 production.
Photo by Scott Suchman.
Ted Van Griethuysen, playing Cymbeline in the Shakespeare Theatre Company's 2011 production.

When the Helen Hayes Awards expanded into two categories — Hayes for mostly Equity productions and Helen for mostly non-Equity productions — the first-time result was chaotic. Doubling the number of awards made the proceedings something of a scramble.

The jury is still out on the final result. But one finds, just by checking the list of honorees, that something has come out of the event that nicely reflects the original thinking behind it. The Helen Hayes Awards, in contrast to, say, the Tony Awards, have always been a celebration of local theater — in all of its forms, sizes and investments — often exposing to the showbiz light a community full of diverse, gifted artists: directors, choreographers, set, sound and costume designers, actors, dancers and singers.

Increasingly, while often stretching their wings elsewhere, these artists have remained members of the community at large, even as the community has created work that has gone on to Broadway, in some cases — like “Dear Evan Hansen,” which began life at Arena Stage — making a big splash on the Great White Way.

The enlargement of the categories has doubled the opportunities for local artists, to be sure, and without one seeming lesser than the other. Often there’s a single production or two dominating the proceedings. This year, on May 15 at the Lincoln Theatre, all sorts of people and productions managed to find their way into the winners’ circle.

The Helens had a clear and visible standout in Theater Alliance’s production of the hip-hop informed “Word Becomes Flesh” by Marc Bamuthi Joseph, a companion piece to the classic “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow is Enuf.” It won five awards, including Outstanding Director of a Play for Psalmeyene 24.

Other highlights included a special tribute award that went to actor Ted van Griethuysen for a Washington acting career that has not abated. He’s in “The Father” at Studio Theatre (he’s been a regular there, as well as at the Shakespeare Theatre Company). The award was presented to Van Griethuysen by Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg.

“Come From Away,” which had a big stop at Ford’s Theatre, got the Outstanding Production, Musical award in the Hayes division, which should help lift the sweet musical about stranded flyers in the wake of 9/11, currently up for a few Tony Awards. It also got a nod for director Christopher Ashley. Bobby Smith found himself a winner for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Musical, Hayes division, for “La Cage aux Folles” at Signature, where Felicia Boswell shared the Outstanding Lead Actress in a Musical, Hayes division, for “Jelly’s Last Jam” with Tracy Lynn Olivera, who was nothing short of tremendous in “110 in the Shade” at Ford’s.

Adventure Theater got a nod for Outstanding Ensemble in a Musical, Helen division, for “James and the Giant Peach.” The Keegan Theatre got an award for Outstanding Production, Musical, Helen division, for “Next to Normal.”

The complete list of nominees and winners is available here.

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Mon, 29 May 2017 09:14:28 -0400

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