Arts Desk

Helen Hayes No More

Back in April, the annual Helen Hayes Awards ended on somewhat mysterious note: The ceremony promised a "next chapter" in the history of the Helen Hayes organization, which puts on the awards show and promotes and advocates for D.C. theater. What that meant, I learned at the time, was that the organization planned to change its name and broaden its mission, and we now know some more about both.

Come September, the new name will be TheatreWashington—which you would have learned today if you got a press release for the organization's fall gala. Less likely: You saw this announcement from a week ago, linked at the bottom of the Helen Hayes site.

The important stuff: The organization's name is changing, but the Helen Hayes Awards will still be called the Helen Hayes Awards, or at least that's what the organization's president, Linda Levy Grossman, told me in April. I also got the sense that the changes, made after consulting with local theater companies, will mostly be ones of magnitude: More advocacy, more promoting, more education, plus professional development. From the announcement, which promises further blog posts:

Here are just a few topics that we’ll be discussing in the next few weeks:

  • Who and What is TheatreWashington – Really
  • What’s Different
  • What about “Helen”
  • The Board of Governors
  • It's All About Collaboration
  • To Be or Not to Be – a membership organization . . that is the question
  • Focusing on Five
  • Team TheatreWashington
  • Building a Brand for Washington Theatre

Interesting! Especially the sixth bullet: Right now, the Helen Hayes Awards and organization aren't paid for by D.C.'s theaters. So maybe that's on the table.

And I'll add one more bullet: What about the League of Washington Theatres?

I'm sure there are many minds on the subject, but having a robust representative can't be a bad thing for D.C. theaters. Certainly, when Helen Hayes helped defeat a proposed tax on tickets to live performances in D.C., it was a huge win. At the same time, when the organization has expanded its tools in the past, it's stepped on a toe or two.

As for the name "TheatreWashington": It's OK. Doesn't feel totally Google-able, but we'll see. More on all of this as it trickles out.

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