Arts Desk

The Helen Hayes Awards: What We Learned

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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

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