E. Faye Butler as Sister Juba in Pullman Porter Blues at Seattle Repertory Theatre, which comes to Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater November 23, 2012-January 6, 2013.  Photo by Kevin Rosinbum.
E. Faye Butler as Sister Juba in Pullman Porter Blues at Seattle Repertory Theatre, which comes to Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater November 23, 2012-January 6, 2013. Photo by Kevin Rosinbum.

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Last night’s untricked-out Helen Hayes Awards at the Warner Theatre began almost immediately with prize-giving, and that was mostly what we got: Few distractions, and lots of people talking about theater. Did some thank-yous go on too long? Sure. Was Robert Aubry Davis conspicuously absent even though his voice was the evening’s host? Yes. Were we sad that the nominations’ shut-out of Synetic Theater translated into a far less sexy after-party? Very much so. Nevertheless, the Helen Hayes Awards happened, and here’s what we remember. Like the awards themselves, nothing is deemed the best, just simply outstanding.

Outstanding Warner Theatre Lobby Accessory: Flasks. That open bar is two-and-a-half hours away!—-RJR

Least Outstanding Warner Theatre Lobby Accessory: Socks (not with dresses, ladies)—-RJR

Outstanding Power Move: Quick stop at District Taco before the ceremony gets underway.—-JLF

Outstanding Irony: Dinner theater actresses joking onstage about their table-waiting skills on the same night Actors Equity Association receives the Helen Hayes Tribute award.—-RJR

Outstanding Sexual Revelation: Victor Shargai, chairman of the Helen Hayes board, introducing actress Naomi Jacobson as, “the woman who almost made me change my sexual orientation.”—-RJR

Outstanding Casual Dress: Ellen Burstyn‘s fancy-casual silk PJs. Of course, when you’ve won an Oscar, a Golden Globe, and an Emmy, you can wear whatever you want.—-PP

Outstanding Attractive Ensemble: The cast of Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, which brought both actors from Imagination Stage and dancers from the Washington Ballet up onstage to accept the resident musical ensemble award.—-RJR

Outstanding Guest Performance, D.C. Council Edition: At-large Councilmember David Grosso represented D.C.’s legislators this year, stepping in for Ward 2’s Jack Evans, who usually makes an appearance at these things. (Evans, you’ll remember, is always quick to remind reporters and constituents that he enjoys support from the city’s artistic community and that many of the theaters are in his jurisdiction.) But in deliberations over the District’s fiscal 2014 budget, it is Grosso who takes up the mantle of increasing D.C.’s arts funding. And Grosso didn’t even need to use last night to give a big stump speech. He read the nominees in his category, then moved along. Evans, who is said to be planning a mayoral run next year, could have used the Helen Hayes Awards to launch his campaign. The audience was, after all, his base.—-BRF

Outstanding Guest Performance, NBC Universal Edition: MSNBC personality Chris Matthews is a big theater fan, and has presented awards at several past Helen Hayes ceremonies. But not last night. Instead, we got NBC4’s Wendy Riegerwho wins just by showing up.—-BRF

Most Outstandingly Deserving: Outstanding lighting design winner Mary Louise Geiger, who was responsible for the grid of light bulbs hanging above Studio Theatre’s stage for Invisible Man.—-RJR

Outstanding Spousal Shout-out: “Shut up.” That’s what E. Faye Butler said as she accepted the award for outstanding supporting actress, resident play. Her husband had just shouted, “I told you you could do it!”—-RJR

Outstanding Compliment: During the Helen Hayes webcast, Ellen Burstyn complimented WAMU host Rebecca Sheir‘s dress, calling her a Greek goddess.—-PP

Outstanding Onstage Molly Smith Impersonation: E. Faye Butler again, amusing the audience with a recap of her Pullman Porter Blues audition.—-RJR

Outstanding Theme: “I need a job!” Butler said, David Lutken said, even Ellen frickin’ Burstyn said it. Give these people jobs!—-JLF

Outstanding Trans-Atlantic Travel: Christopher Saul, winner of outstanding supporting performer, non-resident production, for his portrayal of Polonius (and other characters) in the Globe Theatre’s eight-actor Hamlet.—-RJR

Outstanding Speech Intro: “I’m a Brit,” Saul said.—-JLF

Outstanding Praise From an Artistic Director: “It’s the most amazing thing I’ve seen in 20 years,” said Shakespeare Theatre Company’s Michael Kahn, explaining why he brought National Theatre of Scotland’s Black Watch—-which won for outstanding non-resident production—-to Washington.—-RJR

Less-Than-Outstanding Dick Jokes: Organizer Linda Levy Grossman talking about people who “get it up” for D.C. theater.—-BRF

Not-So-Outstanding Musical Tribute: “My Junk is You,” an off-key, not-together rendition of the masturbation ballad from Spring Awakening.—-RJR

Outstanding Applause: For the late Jaylee Mead, who got even louder claps than Marvin Hamlisch during the in-memorium montage.—-JLF

Outstanding Musical Theater Tribute: “Sh-boom,” the annual thank-you-sponsors tribute, this year with special lyrics by playwright Renee Calarco, who had to find rhymes for Vornado and Bloomberg BNA.—-RJR

Outstanding Anti-Multimodal Arts Organization: Helen Hayes Awards organizer Theatre Washington took up arms in the supposed war on cars with the ceremony’s closing number. And it sided with the cars. With last night’s performers ending on the line, “get off your ass, get in your car, and go see a show,” cyclists might want to think twice about heading to the theater, lest they want to risk a fight in the parking lot.—-BRF

Outstanding Romantic Moment: The photo-booth chaise-lounge set-up at the after party was a big hit for partygoers, and especially one couple.

Donna Stout‘s boyfriend popped the question in the booth.—-PP

Least Outstanding After-Party Austerity Measures: No Bailey’s and Kahlua at the coffee bar. No cupcakes, either.—-RJR