What lessons to draw from last night’s Helen Hayes Awards at the Warner Theatre? There were only two ties—-compare that to five in 2011. And no company dominated outright—-although Synetic, with its four wins, and Signature, with its five, are the evening’s clear champs. The region’s most prominent theater houses—-the Kennedy Center, Arena Stage, Shakespeare Theatre Company—-got a handful of awards, but half of them were for book-ins. The ceremony could’ve stood to be a half-hour shorter, but for the most part it felt like it was moving briskly. There were the inevitable D.C.-specific rewrites of classic Broadway musical numbers, but in large part, they were more self-effacing than self-revering.
As always, constituencies from suburban theaters specializing in classic musicals cheered loudest. As always, lots of folks struggled to pronounce the names of Synetic Theater’s Eurasia-extracted nominees. And as always, the evening was charmingly indifferent to decorum: One actress thanked her “sponsor” for letting her out for the night; an actor thanked Helen Hayes’ board chair for (apocryphally?) sleeping with him.
You can see the full list of winners here. Arts Desk, meanwhile, has its own awards honoring achievement over the course of the 28th Helen Hayes Awards. Just like the theatreWashington-sponsored event, recipients of our prizes are outstanding, not best. After all: When it comes to D.C. theater, everyone’s a winner.
Outstanding Self-Serving Appearance by a Local Politician: Jack Evans, who appeared at the ceremony to read a D.C. Council proclamation declaring it “Theatre Week” by the “power vested in him,” told the crowd more than once that as chairman of the council’s tax-writing committee, he’s been looking out for theaters’ best interests. At the end of his proclamation, he also called D.C. the “District of Congratulations.”
Outstanding Bummer: No mention, by anyone, of D.C.’s dire, dwindling arts funding.
Outstanding Tribute Fom One Winner to Another: “Act 2 with you was why I got into acting,” Mitchell Hebert to Gabriela Fernandez-Coffey, both of whom won for After the Fall at Theater J.
Outstanding Excuse for a No-Show Boyfriend: Playwright Marc Acito’s partner of 25 years. “I mean, we’ve been together for 25 years, not that he’s 25,” the flabbergasted playwright said, after his Birds of a Feather won the award for outstanding new play or musical. “I didn’t think I would win, so I told him not to come.”
Outstanding Floating Head: Bill Clinton’s, via video message, introducing the tribute to Kevin Spacey.
Outstanding Riposte to Floating Head: Kevin Spacey’s Bill Clinton impression.
Outstanding Backhanded Actor Tribute: Kevin Spacey’s clip montage included not one but two scenes from the career-stalling flop Pay It Forward.
Outstanding Cri-de-Coeur: Spacey’s closing line—-“Everybody in the balcony, everyone out there who has a dream: Fucking live it.”
Outstanding Grace in the Face of Mispronunciation: “It’s all right. I was five before I could spell it.”—-Ted van Griethuysen, accepting his prize for outstanding supporting actor, resident production, for Much Ado About Nothing.
Outstanding Should-I-Clap? Moment: Any mention of Mike Daisey.
Outstanding Sartorial Coordination: The Hairspray ensemble’s John Waters-trashy outfits.
Outstanding Sartorial Coordination, Runner Up: Hosts Holly Twyford and Felicia Curry’s multitudinous outfit changes.
Outstanding Actor Most Likely to Be the Subject of a House of Representatives Hearing on Un-American Activities: Australian Hugo Weaving, a no-show to collect honors for outstanding supporting performer, non-resident production. “I’m very disappointed he’s not here,” said U.S. Rep. Jim Moran, onstage to present the award.
Outstanding ’80s Pop Music Joke Told From the Podium: Michael Baron, collecting his prize for outstanding director, resident musical for A Year With Frog and Toad, Michael Bobbitt, collecting Charlotte’s Web‘s prize for outstanding production for young audiences, recites the Dualan lines from Michael Jackson’s “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’,” claiming it translates into English as “Sussudio.” BWAH-HA-HA-HA-HA.
Outstanding Unfortunate West Side Story Parody: Thanking the corporate sponsors to the tune of “Officer Krupke.”
Outstanding Unnecessary Musical Number: D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities Executive Director Lionell Thomas serenading DCCAH chair Judith Terra. Maybe if they restore the agency’s arts funding, its boss will stop singing?
Outstanding Artistic Director No-Show: Arena Stage’s Molly Smith, who sent a surrogate to collect the award for outstanding non-resident production.
Outstanding Thank You: “[theatreWashington board chair] Victor Shargai gave me a wonderful piece of advice early in my career: Sleep with me and I’ll get you an award”—-Euan Morton, accepting his prize for outstanding lead actor, resident musical.
Outstanding Buffet Option for Pescetarian: Waffle fries with Old Bay
Outstanding Dance-Floor Moves: Brynn Tucker, most recently seen as Eve in Synetic Theater’s Genesis Reboot, getting down and carnal with the rest of her movement-theater troupe pals.
Outstanding Choreographed Business Card Exchange That Could Lead to Future Collaborations: Marc Acito and Signature Theatre’s Matthew Gardiner.