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Everything You Need to Know About the Helen Hayes Awards

May 9, 2018 by Allison Considine
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Hannah Yelland and Antoinette Robinson in “Twelfth Night” at Shakespeare Theatre Company. (Photographed by Scott Suchman)

It’s awards season everywhere! For the bustling theater district in Washington, D.C., the linchpin event of the year happens after the cherry blossoms fall — the Helen Hayes Awards. The 34th annual awards ceremony will take place on Monday, May 14 at the newly-built concert venue, The Anthem, in the Capitol City.

Named after D.C.-native Helen Hayes, known as the “First Lady of American Theater,” the awards recognize professional musical and play productions and performances in the District. The Helen Hayes Awards are administered by theatreWashington, and a team of 38 volunteers will adjudicate the awards this year.

Nominations have been given to 202 productions at 64 different theaters, which appeared onstage in the 2017 calendar year. Co-hosts Michael J. Bobbitt and Alyssa Wilmoth Keegan, both mainstay performers in the D.C. theater community, will emcee the evening of awards and performances and partying.

Leading the pack of musical nominations is GALA Hispanic Theatre’s production of “In the Heights” with 18 nods, including Outstanding Choreography and Outstanding Direction of a Musical. Other top contenders are Constellation Theatre Company’s “The Wild Party,” which has received 11 nominations, and Olney Theatre Center and Round House Theatre’s coproduction of “In the Heights” with 10 nominations.

The play nominations are led by Shakespeare Theatre Company’s “Twelfth Night” with nine nominations, including for each design category. Other top-scoring productions are “Still Life With Rocket” at Theater Alliance with eight nominations, and “Or” at Round House Theatre with seven.

In total there are 47 categories, which recognize both Equity productions and shows with a majority of non-Equity performers. The Equity shows are categorized as “Hayes” and non-Equity as “Helen” in the nominations list — but the winners all receive the same spinning trophy. The Helen Hayes Awards categories offer a spotlight rarely shone at theater awards, including recognition for sound designers, music directors, and ensembles. The awards even highlight visiting productions.

The 2018 Helen Hayes Tribute will honor Nancy Robinette, who has an artistic home in D.C. having appeared on the stages of Arena Stage, Scena Theatre, Signature Theatre, Studio Theatre, and Round House Theatre, among others. She appeared on Broadway in “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time.”

To welcome new companies into the D.C. theater community, the awards will bestow the John Aniello Award for Outstanding Emerging Theatre Company to one of the two eligible companies, LiveArtDC and Monumental Theatre Company.

Excited for the awards this year? Get tickets to experience Washington theater’s biggest night (and party) of the year May 14 at the Anthem.