As a nation we have the Academy Awards, the Golden Globe Awards, the Emmy Awards and DC has the Helen Hayes Awards honoring our local theater community. Monday night was the 29th Helen Hayes Awards held at The Warner Theater, which is located in the original theater district in DC. The awards is led by Linda Levy Grossman, President and CEO, and Victor Shargai, Chairman of the Board of Directors.
DC is a theater town!! I’ve heard many actors tell me that DC is one of the few cities you can make a living as a full-time actor. I counted 87 Washington theatre companies and affiliates mentioned in the awards program.
So what exactly is the Helen Hayes’s Awards? Well it was started 30 years ago to recognize the excellence of professional theatre in the DC area which would naturally lead to increasing audiences at the theatre. As audiences grew, neighborhoods could be developed into thriving hubs of prosperity and vitality. Today we see downtown DC, Bethesda, and Shirlington thriving because theater was added to the mix.
About 15 awards were given out interspersed by musical acts and videos. One clever song and dance was thanking all the sponsors for making theatre and the Helen Hayes Awards possible. It got big laughs. The crowd could not be more enthusiastic cheering for their favorite actors and productions.
The big win of the night for Outstanding Resident play was Folger Theatre’s Taming of the Shrew.
The Washington Post Award for Innovative Leadership in the Theatre Community went to Capital Fringe. The Executive Director gave a passionate speech about how she found an outlet through the Fringe Festival and she is so appreciative of it being recognized. Capital Fringe is the only major uninjured, self-producing, open-access art festival in DC and the second largest in the US. It was founded in 2006. By expanding the breadth and access to new performing art, Capital Fringe has brought art and artists from the fringes into the spotlight.
The John Aniello Award for Outstanding Emerging Theater Company went to Dizzy Miss Lizzie’s Roadside Revue. The award recognizes the efforts of companies just getting started yet have produced a body of work that is new, daring, and exciting. The Dizzy Miss Lizzie’s Roadside Revue was created in 2010 by actors/ musicians Debra Buonaccorsi and Steve McWilliams. The theatre company bridges the gap between theatre and rock and roll.
For a list of all the award winners, please go here.
Also in the audience was the famous actress Ellen Burstyn. She is the first women to head the Actors’ Equity which gave actors protection for their working rights. She gave a short, but sweet speech about the Actors Equity and how important it is to actors’ lives.
The after party kicked off around 1030pm at the Marriott and lasted until 130am. There was pizza, open bar, sweet potato bar, mashed potato bar, hummus, mini cheese burgers, and a dessert table with Swedish Fish, licorice and M&Ms. The dance floor was pumping and I guess with all that theater and dance training, the moves were awesome. One guy did a mean “Gangnam Style” dance. I loved it. In addition, there was a photo setting where people could put on props and get their picture taken and send to their email or Facebook. One couple took it upon themselves to get engaged! I got to see all the captured photos on the computer.
The DC Theatre scene prides itself on being a powerful medium that transforms people and communities in life-changing ways. If you haven’t been to the theatre in DC yet, please do. The talent here is immense and it will brighten your world.