Arts Desk

Signature Theatre Plays Smaller Role in 2009 Helen Hayes Awards

Nominations for the 26th annual Helen Hayes Awards—D.C.'s version of the Tony Awards—were announced Monday night, including a conspicuous dearth of nominees from one heavy-hitter: Signature Theatre. The Arlington, Va. company has dominated the awards in past years, especially in the musical category: Last year, Signature received 39 nominations and went on to win 10 awards, taking every single musical category except for Outstanding New Play or Musical. The company also gained national recognition when it was awarded a regional Tony.  This year, Signature nabbed only eight nominations, while the Kennedy Center, with 20 nominations for productions including A Streetcar Named Desire, starring Cate Blanchett, and August: Osage County, starring Estelle Parsons, came out ahead.

That opened up the field for other companies, which led to some gracious, discreet online gloating on Theater J's blog: The nominations "were spread a bit more liberally about this season—with some coagulation in the usual artist’s corners—but less so institutionally." Theater J was nominated for five awards this year, compared to three last year. Otherwise, blogs have been mum on the topic of Signature's lower profile, focusing instead on the smaller companies that received nominations and will go up against established theater companies like Arena Stage, Woolly Mammoth and Studio Theatre in the April 5 awards ceremony.

D.C. Theater Scene underscores the nominations for productions by the Keegan Theatre, GALA Hispanic Theatre, MetroStage, Forum and Rep Stage. Among the small companies, The Post's Nelson Pressley notes that Forum was a special case: Its staging of Angels in America—both Millennium Approaches and Perestroika—will be difficult to judge as two separate parts. It will compete against itself two categories: Outstanding Ensemble and Lead Actor, Resident Play (for Karl Miller's performance.)

Multiple nominations within the same category are not uncommon for actors, choreographers and other award categories at the Helen Hayes Awards. Synetic Theater's Irina Tsikurishvili received choreography nods for three different performances, and Synetic's costume designer, Anastasia Ryurikov Simes, was nominated twice. Holly Twyford is three of the seven nominees for Outstanding Lead Actress, Resident Play, for performances in the Folger Theatre's Arcadia, Signature Theatre's The Little Dog Laughed, and Theater J's Lost in Yonkers. Sound designer Veronica Vorel was thrice-nominated, as well.

Last year, Signature exceeded even that, with four nominations for direction of a musical and outstanding musical, five for both lead and supporting actor, and all six of the supporting actress nominations for resident musicals. So is it just an off year?

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  • Ari Roth

    "Discreet online gloating?" No, I don't think so. Nobody's gloating. Stating a few facts, that's all -- the nominations were, in fact, spread a bit more liberally about this season and that's all to the good for the field, for the diverse cultural ecology of our theater community. Theater J's not gloating for about our modest fortunes and we're not chuckling about any other institutions ups or downs. It's not a contest. Signature's a great theater company; one among many. May there sufficient (spot) light shined on all of us.

  • Ari Roth

    and excuse the typos (several).

  • P Fletch

    BIG CONGRATS to Alex Mills and Irakli Kavsadze on their Supporting Actor noms for Synetics' "A Midsummer Night's Dream"