2023 Helen Hayes Awards nominee
Resa Mishina, Deidre Staples, Miranda Rizzolo, and Jordan Slattery (nominated for best lead performance in a play) in John Proctor is the Villain at Studio Theatre; Credit: Margot Schulman

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After three topsy-turvy years, the Helen Hayes Awards will return, in person, this May to honor the D.C. area’s eminent theater scene. While the ceremony may be another four months away, the celebration began last night, Jan. 30, when the nominees for the 37th awards show were announced at the National Theatre and online via Theatre Washington’s Twitter account. 

The nominees, in 41 categories ranging from direction to choreography, come from a total of 131 productions presented in 2022, including 38 world premieres. Many of the categories—such as Outstanding Musical Direction, Outstanding Set Design, and ​​Outstanding Ensemble—are grouped into two verticals: “Helen” or “Hayes” depending on the number of Actors’ Equity members involved in the production. 

Thirty-four theaters were recognized, with Arlington’s Signature Theatre leading the pack with the most nominations—30 in total—for its productions of She Loves Me (9), The Color Purple (13), Which Way to the Stage (1), Into the Woods (4), and No Place to Go (3). GALA Hispanic Theatre came in second with 20 nominations, 15 of which went to ON YOUR FEET! La historia de Emilio y Gloria Estefan ¡EN ESPAÑOL!—the most nominations of any production. Studio Theatre’s world premiere of Kimberly Belflower’s John Proctor Is the Villain tied for third place and 11 nominations with Monumental Theatre Company’s run of tick, tick…BOOM!

Despite its short run on Broadway, Jordan E. Cooper’s critically acclaimed Ain’t No Mo’ received five nominations for its run at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, including Lili-Anne Brown for best director and actors Jon Hudson Odom and Brandi Porter for best lead and supporting performances, respectively.

Jon Hudson Odom in Ain’t No Mo’ at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company; Credit: DJ Corey

Falling into the Hayes category, Ain’t No Mo’ was also nominated for Outstanding Production in a Play alongside John Proctor Is the Villain, Shakespeare Theatre Company’s Much Ado About Nothing, Round House Theatre’s Nollywood Dreams and The Tempest, and Olney Theatre Center’s The Joy That Carries You

In the Helen vertical for outstanding play production are Synetic Theater’s Host & Guest and The Servant of Two Masters; Perisphere Theater’s Blue Door, Prologue Theatre’s The Revolutionists, and 1st Stage’s The Rainmaker

Likewise, GALA’s ON YOUR FEET! was nominated as the Helen vertical’s outstanding musical production along with Monumental’s tick, tick…BOOM!, Constellation Theatre Company’s Once on This Island, and two productions from Toby’s Dinner Theatre: Monty Python’s Spamalot and—yes—The Spongebob Musical.

Outstanding Production in a Musical, Hayes, includes: Arena Stage’s American Prophet, Meredith Willson’s The Music Man at Olney Theatre Center, Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed at Imagination Stage, and three Signature productions: No Place to Go, She Loves Me, and The Color Purple.

In addition to these categories, ExPats Theatre and Prologue Theatre both received the 2023 John Aniello Award for Outstanding Emerging Theatre Company.

The winners will be announced on Monday, May 22 at the 2023 Helen Hayes Award celebration, which takes place at the Anthem. 

Editor’s note: this post has been updated to clarify that ExPats and Prologue Theatres are both recipients of the the 2023 John Aniello Award for Outstanding Emerging Theatre Company, not nominees.