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The 34th annual Helen Hayes Awards, recognizing outstanding work in the DMV theatre community, took place Monday night at The Anthem, the striking 6,000-capacity concert venue that opened last October on the District Wharf. After a two-hour mingling period that featured an exciting thunderstorm—striking to watch from the Anthem’s second-floor glass atrium overlooking Washington Channel; thrilling to sprint through from the Wharf parking garage or the Waterfront Green Line stop—the formal ceremony hosted by Alyssa Wilmoth Keegan (who won Outstanding Lead Actress in a Play for her performance in Cat on a Hot Tin Rooflast year) and Adventure Theatre MTC Artistic Director Michael Bobbitt got underway. Glenn Pearson’s eight-piece jazz ensemble provided scoring for the ceremony, playing off recipients after 45 seconds—a more generous allotment for speechifying than in years past. Even so, the awards ceremony stretched to about three hours.
A full listing of nominees and winners appears here. (Lower-budget theatre companies win “Helens,” more flush ones get “Hayes,” in an attempt to level the playing field among nominees.) Meanwhile, the Washington City Paper—represented on this evening by critics Rebecca J. Ritzel and Chris Klimek—is pleased, after a period of bleary-eyed reflection, to announce the winners of the 2018 Helen Hayes Awards Awards, recognizing exceptional performances by Helen Hayes Awards organizers, presenters, and recipients.
Best Logistical Decision: Holding the Helen Hayes Awards at The Anthem. (RJR)
Worst Logistical Decision:Closing the bars about 20 minutes before the show started and only keeping one open (with only two lines) during the show. (RJR)
Outstanding Crowd Compliment:“This is by far the best-looking crowd we’ve had so far at the Anthem.”—Wharf developer Monty Hoffman. Congrats, theater people. You cleaned up better than the Haim fans. (RJR)
Outstanding Joke By A Host: “I’m Alyssa Wilmoth Keegan, managing director of the Keegan Theatre.” J/K! “Actually, I’m managing director of Thomas Keegan.” (That’s her actor husband.) (RJR)
Outstanding Fashion Trend: Blurred gender lines, with lots of guys rocking lace and heels and ladies wearing blazers. (RJR)
Outstanding Catcall:“Get a stage manager! There are dozens of us here!”—A stage manager, presumably, heckling after one of several presenters came onstage without an envelope. (RJR)
Outstanding Show-Appropriate Award Dedication: Kari Ginsburg, who won Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Musical (Helen) for Constellation Theatre Company’s The Wild Party, accepting on behalf of “All the people who love the wrong person.” Ginsburg won Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Play (Helen) last year, for 1st Stage’s production of When the Rain Stops Falling. (CTK)
Outstanding Apology for Playing an Asshole: Will Gartshore, accepting Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Musical (Hayes) for his role inA Little Night Music at Signature,“I kinda feel bad for winning by embodying toxic masculinity in the year of #MeToo.” (RJR)
Outstanding Acceptance Via Relay: Also Will Gartshore, who collected his award a few minutes after his A Little Night Music co-star Tracy Lynn Olivera was named Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Musical (Hayes) but was not present to accept. “Tracy just texted me and said she wants to thank all of you, but especially me,” Gartshore joked. (CTK)
Best Child of a Winner: Maisie Posner, daughter of Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Play (Hayes) winner Erin Weaver and Outstanding Direction of a Play (Hayes) nominee Aaron Posner. In a blue flowered tulle dress, six-year-old Maisie twirled to Carly Rae Jepsen better than anyone else. (RJR)
Outstanding Namer of Names: Michael Kahn.The outgoing Shakespeare Theatre Company Artistic Director was one of several who spoke in praise of Nancy Robinette prior to her acceptance of the Helen Hayes Tribute. He opined that even if Cynthia Nixon becomes governor of New York—and she’s running—Robinette’s performance as Birdie Hubbard in the Shakespeare Theatre’s 2002 production of The Little Foxes was still better. Nixon played the part on Broadway last year. (CTK)
Worst Child of a Winner:A seven-month-old baby (not present) who has apparently been preventing Outstanding Lead Actor in a Musical (Helen) winner Michael Innocenti from getting any sleep. “Thanks to the Helen Hayes for giving my wife and I a chance to get the fuck out of the house,” Innocenti said. (RJR)
Most Embarrassing Slide-Button Slip-Up:The names of the nominees for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Musical (Helen) had not yet been read when winner Félix Marchany’s thank-you slide appeared above the stage. Marchany’s award was one of nine that went to GALA Hispanic Theatre’s production of In the Heights, which won more trophies than any other production. (CTK)
Outstanding Tie:Alessandra Baldacchino and Abby Corrigan, who sat next to each other with their pinky fingers locked together, then both lept to their feet when they were announced as co-winners for Outstanding Performer in a Visiting Production. (The girls starred as younger versions of cartoonist Alison Bechdel in the touring musical Fun Home.) (RJR)
Outstanding Tie (Runner-Up): Kevin McAllister and Blakely Slaybaugh both won Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Musical (Hayes) for Ford’s Theatre’s Ragtime and Arena Stage’sThe Pajama Game, respectively. In accordance with TheatreWashington bylaws, these two talented performers were then required to participate in a no-holds-barred, two-man-enter-one-man-leave trial by combat that, at presstime, had not yet produced a victor. (CTK)
Susan Lucci Award for Outstanding Broken Losing Streak:Ethan McSweeny, who finally won for directing Twelfth Night at Shakespeare Theatre, 20 years after he first got nominated. Unfortunately, his name was misspelled in every Helen Hayes slide. (Twelfth Night was the most honored play, winning four awards.) (RJR)
Most Beloved Winner:Frank Britton. While the ovations for Ted van Griethuysen, who received the Robert Prosky Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Play (Hayes) for Studio Theatre’s The Father, and especially for Nancy Robinette, who received the Helen Hayes Tribute, were long and warm and well-deserved… no recipient brought the audience to their feet last night as spontaneously as Britton, who took home the Prosky Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Play (Helen) for Jesus Hopped the ‘A’ Train at 1st Stage. The way the crowd chanted “Frank! Frank! Frank!” as he made his way to the stage, you’d have guessed he was one of The Anthem’s more typical headliners instead of merely the nicest guy in #DCtheatre. (He can also act a little.) (CTK)
Most Specific Wardrobe Correction: theatreWashington President (and Washington City Paper Publisher Emeritus) Amy Austin made sure we all knew “Frank Britton is not wearing a mumu.” In fact, he appeared to be dressed for a Caribbean vacation, in a straw hat, short-sleeve patterned shirt, and billowy pants. (CTK)
Outstanding Excuse for Not Showing Up:“Sorry, I’m hosting SNL this week,” is presumably what Tina Fey would say. Fey’s musical Mean Girls won for Outstanding Visiting Production and is now running on Broadway, but we’ll still be a little bitter if she goes to the Tonys. (RJR)