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The Shakespeare Theatre Company, Constellation Theatre Company, and GALA Hispanic Theatre were the biggest winners at last night’s Helen Hayes Awards. It was the 32nd annual celebration recognizing excellence in the DMV theatre community, but only the second since TheatreWashington—the advocacy group that puts on the awards—split each category in two. (Starting in 2015, two winners are chosen for each award. A Helen is awarded to a [generally] non-Actors Equity-bound production, while a Hayes goes [usually] to a bigger company using Equity talent.)
While last year’s ceremony turned into a strange athletic event, with some actors removing their high heels so they could sprint to the stage and try to get through their thank-yous within the strictly alloted 30 seconds, last night’s Lincoln Theatre ceremony was a more relaxed, but still disciplined affair. The American Pops Orchestra played off recipients after 45 seconds, which was ample time for most. (It helped that the nominees were asked to write down the names of those they wished to thank, so that list could be projected above the stage while the winner collected his or her trophy. “You can have God and Jesus already up there,” co-host E. Faye Butler said.)
Amiable co-hosts Butler and Lawrence Redmond sang “The Best Is Yet to Come” together to open the ceremony, which clocked in at a hair over two hours—a Goldilocks length that left another couple of hours for dancing at the 9:30 Club afterparty. When cheers interrupted Butler early in her remarks, she laid down the law: “You’re gonna have to shut up. I got a plane to catch in the morning.” We got the message, and the show proceeded at a brisk clip.
Sadly, that left little opportunity for good-natured razzing among the awards presenters. One odd exception was when author Lisa Dickey and actor Emily Townley took their positions at podiums on opposite sides of the stage. Dickey said that she’d lost the contest over which of them would have to walk the farthest to Townley because “she’s bigger.” After a few gasps from the audience, Townley took the trophy she was about to present and balanced it on her bust.
A few acceptance speeches stood out as especially moving.”I’m not going to swear, but holy shit,” said Happenstance Theatre co-founder Sabrina Mandell, accepting her Helen for Outstanding Costume Design, for IMPOSSIBLE! A Happenstance Circus. (She went on to explain that no one has a wardrobe assistant to help with the quick changes in a Happenstance show.) As if to banish any doubt she deserved that award, the Happenstance crew all turned up for the ceremony in immaculate tuxedoes with long tails and top hats—when they took the stage to collect their Helen for Outstanding Ensemble in a Play. Mandell’s longtime partner, the mime Mark Jaster, won the (deep breath) Robert Prosky Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Play, Helen Production, for the same show. “I got my first nomination in 1986, and… thank you,” went the entirety of his acceptance speech.
When David Ives collected the trophy for Outstanding Musical or Play Adaptation, for the Shakespeare Theatre Company’s The Metromanics, he called the show “the most perfect production I’ve ever had.”
The Shakespeare Theatre Company’s Salome was the most Hayes-ed production. It was nominated in 10 categories and won in seven, including Outstanding Play and Outstanding Ensemble. STC artistic director Michael Khan accepted most of the awards showered upon Salome, including South African theatre artist Yaël Farber’s prize for Outstanding Director of a Play, and Pakistani actor Ramzi Choukair‘s Robert Prosky Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Play. Salome also won for Outstanding Choreography in a Play, and for Lighting Design and Set Design.
On the Helen side, Constellation Theatre Company’s revival of the bawdy 2003 Sesame Street parody Avenue Q lead the winners. Its seven trophies included Outstanding Musical and Outstanding Ensemble in a Musical. Three of the five nominees for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Musical were from Avenue Q, as was the winner, Emily Zickler. Vaughn Ryan Middler beat out one of his Avenue Q castmates for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Musical. Outstanding Lead Actress in a Musical winner Katy Carkuff‘s win came just three days after she gave birth to first child, a daughter. Constellation founder Allison Arkell Stockman won Outstanding Director of Musical, while Jake Null rearranged those words slightly to win Outstanding Musical Direction.
GALA Hispanic Theatre had a big night, too, scoring six prizes for its production of Federico García Lorca‘s 1934 drama Yerma, including Outstanding Play. José Luis Arellano Garcia was awarded Best Director, and Mabel Del Pozo took home Outstanding Lead Actress in a Play. Yerma‘s lighting, set, and sound designers were all honored, too.
To no one’s surprise, the John Aniello Award for Outstanding Emerging Theatre Company went to The Welders, the collective of (primarily) playwrights that has pledged to turn over its key positions to a new class of artists every three years. Their second class will take the reigns this August.
Dear Evan Hansen, the original musical from Benj Pasek and Justin Paul that premiered at Arena Stage last summer and opened Off-Broadway earlier this month, won the Hayes for Outstanding Musical. Its director, Michael Grief, took the Hayes for Outstanding Director of a Musical.
Full list of last night’s winners below:
Choreography in a musical Jessica Beth Redish, Silence! The Musical, Studio Theatre
Choreography in a play Kelly Maxner, Mollye Maxner, Occupied Territories, Theater Alliance
Costume design Sabrina Mandell, Impossible! A Happenstance Circus, Happenstance Theater
Lighting design Christopher Annas-Lee, Yerma, Gala Hispanic Theatre
Set design Silvia de Marta, Yerma, Gala Hispanic Theatre
Sound design Mariano Marin, Yerma, Gala Hispanic Theatre
Musical direction Jake Null, Avenue Q, Constellation Theatre Company
Ensemble in a play Impossible! A Happenstance Circus, Happenstance Theater
Ensemble in a musical Avenue Q, Constellation Theatre Company
Supporting actor in a musical Vaughn Ryan Midder, Avenue Q, Constellation Theatre Company
Supporting actress in a musical Emily Zickler, Avenue Q, Constellation Theatre Company
James MacArthur Award for supporting actor in a play Jon Hudson Odom, Passion Play, Forum Theatre
Supporting actress in a play Lolita Marie, Doubt, a Parable, 1st Stage
Lead actor in a musical Kevin McAllister, Ragtime, the Musical, Toby’s Dinner Theatre
Lead actress in a musical Katy Carkuff, Avenue Q, Constellation Theatre Company
Robert Prosky Award for lead actor in a play Mark Jaster, Impossible! A Happenstance Circus, Happenstance Theater
Lead actress in a play Mabel del Pozo, Yerma, Gala Hispanic Theatre
Director of a musical Allison Arkell Stockman, Avenue Q, Constellation Theatre Company
Director of a play José Luis Arellano García, Yerma, Gala Hispanic Theatre
Musical Avenue Q, Constellation Theatre Company
Play Yerma, Gala Hispanic Theatre
Choreography in a musical Michele Lynch, Kiss Me, Kate, Shakespeare Theatre Company
Choreography in a play Ami Shulman, Salome, Shakespeare Theatre Company
Costume design Julie Weiss, Destiny of Desire, Arena Stage
Lighting design Donald Holder, Salome, Shakespeare Theatre Company
Set design Susan Hilferty, Salome, Shakespeare Theatre Company
Sound design Christopher Baine, When She Had Wings, Imagination Stage
Musical direction Jon Kalbfleisch, West Side Story, Signature Theatre
Ensemble in a play Salome
Ensemble in a musical Cabaret, Signature Theatre
Supporting actor in a musical Clyde Alves, Kiss Me, Kate, Shakespeare Theatre Company
Supporting actress in a musical Robyn Hurder, Kiss Me, Kate, Shakespeare Theatre Company
James MacArthur Award for supporting actor Ian Merrill Peakes, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, Folger Theatre
Supporting actress in a play Maggie Wilder, Rapture, Blister, Burn, Round House Theatre
Lead actor in a musical Anthony Warlow, Man of La Mancha, Shakespeare Theatre Company
Lead actress in a musical Barrett Wilbert Weed, Cabaret, Signature Theatre
Robert Prosky Award for lead actor in a play Ramzi Choukair, Salome, Shakespeare Theatre Company
Lead actress in a play Dawn Ursula, Queens Girl in the World, Theater J
Director of a musical Michael Greif, Dear Evan Hansen, Arena Stage
Director of a play Yael Farber, Salome, Shakespeare Theatre Company
Musical Dear Evan Hansen, Arena Stage
Play Salome, Shakespeare Theatre Company
John Aniello Award for emerging theater company The Welders
Charles MacArthur Award for original new play or musical Martyna Majok, Ironbound, Round House Theatre
Original play or musical adaptation David Ives, The Metromaniacs, Shakespeare Theatre Company
Visiting production Once, Kennedy Center
Production, theater for young audiences Wiley and the Hairy Man, Imagination Stage
Outstanding performer, visiting production Dani de Waal, Once, Kennedy Center