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Last night was my first Helen Hayes Awards. This is what I learned.

There were too many ties: Five, in fact, including the top two prizes. Shakespeare Theatre Company’s Candide and Arena Stage’s Oklahoma split the outstanding resident musical category, while Folger’s Hamlet and Woolly Mammoth’s Clybourne Park split outstanding resident play. In that sense, the moral victories go to Candide and Hamlet, both slight underdogs (given Oklahoma‘s reception, forthcoming summer restaging, and several months’ worth of rumors about a move to Broadway, and Clybourne‘s recent Pulitzer win). The losers are, well, everyone: A Helen Hayes Awards with this many ties feels diluted, and more attainable, and therefore less special. How’d it happen? It was an across-the-board strong year, you could argue, but I still think most categories should have still ended in narrow wins. More likely, I think, it’s gotta be something with the rules (judges fill out ballots during the season, and a statistical analysis follows). More on this later. (An aside: Last year there were three ties. There were four in 2009.)

There were a lot of out-of-town winners: Which is to say, a lot of winners congratulating Washington for being such a great theater town. Aw shucks. But it follows that the greater a theater town Washington becomes, the more its stages will cast talents from New York and elsewhere.

I did not hate all the musical numbers: I mean, the riff on West Side Story‘s “Tonight” with D.C.-specific jabs—-D.C. has traffic! So does Virginia! Maryland has crabs! (zing!)—-was borderline-cringeworthy. But points for “The Lady’s on a Stamp” in lieu of “The Lady Is a Tramp” (Helen Hayes: now a stamp!) and a zippy tribute to the show’s corporate sponsors (“they’re the guys who paid for your dinners”).

The pack dynamics are fascinating: Most of the time, the loudest cheers came in pockets. For example, I was sitting near the crowd from Toby’s Dinner Theatre, and not far from the Synetic delegation. From across the room, it was clear the Woolly people were pretty loud. Sometimes it felt like a competition: Who’s got the most cheer? Of course, everyone applauded the winners, and the special awards recipients, and the recently deceased memorialized in a montage. The rest of the time, everyone was there to root for their own team.

Oklahoma did not clean up: It had 10 nominations in eight categories. It walked away with four statues, two of them in categories with ties.

Nor did Clybourne Park: It had eight nominations in seven categories, and won in two (both ties).

Candide is feeling pretty good: Six wins out of 12 nominations (two ties!).

Actors are really funny: Especially Johnny Ramey, who won a lead actor prize for Superior Donuts and thanked the L.A. Lakers.

Synetic is a Helen Hayes favorite, but a lot of people can’t pronounce Artistic Director Paata Tsikurishvili’s name: It’s really astounding.

It was surprisingly efficient: Done in less than two hours, and an after-party followed, and I really enjoyed the fried mac ‘n’ cheese bites there.

LIST OF WINNERS

Outstanding Choreography, Resident Production Diane Coburn Bruning, Improbable Frequency, Solas Nua Ben Cunis, King Arthur, Synetic Theater Parker Esse, Oklahoma!, Arena Stage Maurice Hines, Duke Ellington’s Sophisticated Ladies, Arena Stage Irina Tsikurishvili, King Arthur, Synetic Theater Irina Tsikurishvili, Othello, Synetic Theater

Outstanding Costume Design, Resident Production Mara Blumenfeld, Candide, Shakespeare Theatre Company Murell Horton, The Liar, Shakespeare Theatre Company William Ivey Long, Henry VIII, Folger Theatre Reggie Ray, Duke Ellington’s Sophisticated Ladies, Arena Stage Anastasia Ryurikov Simes, Othello, Synetic Theater

Outstanding Director, Resident Musical Toby Orenstein, Hairspray, Toby’s Dinner Theatre Eric Schaeffer, Chess, Signature Theatre Molly Smith, Oklahoma!, Arena Stage Molly Smith, The Light in the Piazza, Arena Stage Mary Zimmerman, Candide, Shakespeare Theatre Company

Outstanding Director, Resident Play Kasi Campbell, Travels With My Aunt, Rep Stage Joseph Haj, Hamlet, Folger Theatre Robert Richmond, Henry VIII, Folger Theatre Howard Shalwitz, Clybourne Park, Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company Paata Tsikurishvili, Othello, Synetic Theater Paata Tsikurishvili, The Master and Margarita, Synetic Theater

Outstanding Lead Actor, Non-Resident Production Steel Burkhardt, Hair, The Kennedy Center Brent Michael DiRoma, Avenue Q, The Broadway Musical, Shakespeare Theatre Company Laurence Fishburne, Thurgood, The Kennedy Center Gavin Lee, Mary Poppins, The Kennedy Center David Pittsinger, South Pacific, The Kennedy Center

Outstanding Lead Actor, Resident Musical Maurice Hines, Duke Ellington’s Sophisticated Ladies, Arena Stage Marc Kudisch, Sycamore Trees, Signature Theatre Geoff Packard, Candide, Shakespeare Theatre Company Nicholas Rodriguez, Oklahoma!, Arena Stage Bobby Smith, Annie, Olney Theatre Center Cody Williams, Oklahoma!, Arena Stage

Outstanding Lead Actress, Non-Resident Production Carmen Cusack, South Pacific, The Kennedy Center Jaqueline Grabois, Avenue Q, The Broadway Musical, Shakespeare Theatre Company Caroline Sheen, Mary Poppins, The Kennedy Center Kacie Sheik, Hair, The Kennedy Center Caren Lyn Tackett, Hair, The Kennedy Center

Outstanding Lead Actress, Resident Musical E. Faye Butler, Oklahoma!, Arena Stage Eleasha Gamble, Oklahoma!, Arena Stage Carrie A. Johnson, Annie, Olney Theatre Center Lauren Molina, Candide, Shakespeare Theatre Company Jill Paice, Chess, Signature Theatre Hollis Resnik, The Light in the Piazza, Arena Stage

Outstanding Lead Actress, Resident Play Lise Bruneau, Mikveh, Theater J Naomi Jacobson, Henry VIII, Folger Theatre Sarah Marshall, Mikveh, Theater J Jennifer Mendenhall, Clybourne Park, Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company Erika Rose, In Darfur, Theater J Holly Twyford, Orestes, A Tragic Romp, Folger Theatre

Outstanding Lighting Design, Resident Production Colin K. Bills, Antony and Cleopatra, Synetic Theater Colin K. Bills, The Master and Margarita, Synetic Theater Dan Covey, On the Verge or The Geography of Yearning, Rep Stage T.J. Gerckens, Candide, Shakespeare Theatre Company Klyph Stanford, Henry VIII, Folger Theatre Justin Townsend, Hamlet, Folger Theatre

Outstanding Musical Direction, Resident Production George Fulginiti-Shakar, Oklahoma!, Arena Stage Jon Kalbfleisch, Sunset Boulevard, Signature Theatre Daniel Kluger, Orestes, A Tragic Romp, Folger Theatre Fred Lassen, Sycamore Trees, Signature Theatre Konstantine Lortkipandze, Othello, Synetic Theater Doug Peck, Candide, Shakespeare Theatre Company Paul Sportelli, The Light in the Piazza, Arena Stage James Sugg, Orestes, A Tragic Romp, Folger Theatre

Outstanding Set Design, Resident Production Tony Cisek, Henry VIII, Folger Theatre Simon Higlett, Mrs. Warren’s Profession, Shakespeare Theatre Company James Kronzer, Clybourne Park, Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company Eugene Lee, Oklahoma!, Arena Stage Derek McLane, The Lisbon Traviata, The Kennedy Center Daniel Ostling, Candide, Shakespeare Theatre Company

Outstanding Sound Design, Resident Production Anthony Cochrane, Henry VIII, Folger Theatre Jack Herrick, Hamlet, Folger Theatre Irakli Kavsadze, Othello, Synetic Theater Konstantine Lortkipandze, Othello, Synetic Theater Matthew M. Nielson, Hamlet, Folger Theatre Matt Otto, Johnny Meister and the Stitch, Solas Nua Michael Rasbury, Henry VIII, Folger Theatre Tom Teasley, The Ramayana, Constellation Theatre Company

Outstanding Supporting Actor, Resident Musical Ed Dixon, Sunset Boulevard, Signature Theatre James Konicek, Annie, Olney Theatre Center Jeremy Kushnier, Chess, Signature Theatre John Manzari, Duke Ellington’s Sophisticated Ladies, Arena Stage Leo Manzari, Duke Ellington’s Sophisticated Ladies, Arena Stage Jesse J. Perez, Candide, Shakespeare Theatre Company Larry Yando, Candide, Shakespeare Theatre Company

Outstanding Supporting Actress, Resident Musical MaryLee Adams, Hairspray, Toby’s Dinner Theatre Lauren ‘Coco’ Cohn, Glimpses of the Moon, MetroStage Jesaira Glover, Hairspray, Toby’s Dinner Theatre Marva Hicks, Duke Ellington’s Sophisticated Ladies, Arena Stage Hollis Resnik, Candide, Shakespeare Theatre Company Jenna Sokolowski, Annie, Olney Theatre Center

Outstanding Supporting Actress, Resident Play Colleen Delany, Pirates! A Boy at Sea, Imagination Stage Naomi Jacobson, Richard II, Shakespeare Theatre Company MacKenzie Meehan, Circle Mirror Transformation, The Studio Theatre Phylicia Rashad, every tongue confess, Arena Stage Dawn Ursula, Clybourne Park, Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company

Outstanding Supporting Performer, Non-Resident Production Ellen Harvey, Mary Poppins, The Kennedy Center Jodi Kimura, South Pacific, The Kennedy Center Marc Kudisch, Golden Age, The Kennedy Center Josh Lamon, Hair, The Kennedy Center Hoon Lee, Golden Age, The Kennedy Center

The Charles MacArthur Award for Outstanding New Play or Musical every tongue confess, Marcus Gardley, Arena Stage Snow White, Rose Red (and Fred), music by, Zina Goldrich, The Kennedy Center Family Theater Sycamore Trees, book, music & lyrics by, Ricky Ian Gordon, Signature Theatre Snow White, Rose Red (and Fred), book & lyrics by, Marcy Heisler, The Kennedy Center Family Theater The Liar, David Ives, Shakespeare Theatre Company Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Musical, musical arrangements by, Deborah Wicks La Puma, The Kennedy Center Family Theater Sycamore Trees, book by, Nina Mankin, Signature Theatre Pirates! A Boy at Sea, Charles Way, Imagination Stage

The Helen Hayes Tribute, sponsored by Jaylee Mead Tommy Tune

The James MacArthur Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor, Resident Play Louis Butelli, Henry VIII, Folger Theatre Adam Green, The Liar, Shakespeare Theatre Company Michael Tolaydo, New Jerusalem: The Interrogation of Baruch De Spinoza, Theater J Ted van Griethuysen, All’s Well That Ends Well, Shakespeare Theatre Company Paxton Whitehead, All’s Well That Ends Well, Shakespeare Theatre Company

The Robert Prosky Award for Outstanding Lead Actor, Resident Play Philip Fletcher, Othello, Synetic Theater John Glover, The Lisbon Traviata, The Kennedy Center Graham Hamilton, Hamlet, Folger Theatre Mitchell Hébert, Clybourne Park, Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company Bill Largess, The Foreigner, The Bay Theatre Company, Inc. Alex Mills, Othello, Synetic Theater Cody Nickell, Clybourne Park, Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company Ian Merrill Peakes, Henry VIII, Folger Theatre Johnny Ramey, Superior Donuts, The Studio Theatre Alexander Strain, New Jerusalem: The Interrogation of Baruch De Spinoza, Theater J

Outstanding Ensemble, Resident Musical Candide, Shakespeare Theatre Company Hairspray, Toby’s Dinner Theatre If You Give a Pig a Pancake, Adventure Theatre Oklahoma!, Arena Stage Snow White, Rose Red (and Fred), The Kennedy Center Family Theater Sycamore Trees, Signature Theatre

Outstanding Ensemble, Resident Play American Buffalo, The Studio Theatre Clybourne Park, Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company Henry VIII, Folger Theatre Orestes, A Tragic Romp, Folger Theatre Othello, Synetic Theater Travels With My Aunt, Rep Stage

Outstanding Non-Resident Production Avenue Q, The Broadway Musical, Shakespeare Theatre Company The Last Cargo Cult, Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company Mary Poppins, The Kennedy Center South Pacific, The Kennedy Center Thurgood, The Kennedy Center

Outstanding Production, Theatre for Young Audiences If You Give a Pig a Pancake, Adventure Theatre Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Musical, The Kennedy Center Family Theater The Nutcracker, The Puppet Co. Pirates! A Boy at Sea, Imagination Stage Snow White, Rose Red (and Fred), The Kennedy Center Family Theater The Red Balloon, Adventure Theatre

Outstanding Resident Musical Annie, Olney Theatre Center Candide, Shakespeare Theatre Company Duke Ellington’s Sophisticated Ladies, Arena Stage Hairspray, Toby’s Dinner Theatre The Light in the Piazza, Arena Stage Little Shop of Horrors, Ford’s Theatre Oklahoma!, Arena Stage Sweeney Todd, Signature Theatre

Outstanding Resident Play Clybourne Park, Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company Hamlet, Folger Theatre Henry VIII, Folger Theatre The Master and Margarita, Synetic Theater New Jerusalem: The Interrogation of Baruch De Spinoza, Theater J Orestes, A Tragic Romp, Folger Theatre Othello, Synetic Theater Superior Donuts, The Studio Theatre

The John Aniello Award for Outstanding Emerging Theatre Company No Rules Theatre Company Factory 449: a theatre collective

The Washington Post Award for Innovative Leadership in the Theatre Community Ford’s Theatre, for their “History on Stage” and “History on Foot” programs