The dust has settled. A week gone by. And it all seems like some vaguely fantastical theatrical dream. The 31st Annual Helen Hayes Awards Ceremony has just passed us by and the heads of thespians, artists, and theatrical natured people all across Washington DC are still spinning in a blissful blur from the evening’s events. Celebrating the finest in Washington DC Theatre this year was the first year that the treasured awards ceremony executed its new adjudication system resulting in more recognition and more awards across the board for over 50 theatres being recognized throughout the evening’s events.
Still settling into the new format for the awards ceremony, which includes nominations divided into two categories— The Helen and The Hayes (for more information on the criteria of these categories, click here)— the evening’s biggest issue was time. Despite predictions that the ceremony would run exceedingly long, give the new number of awards being presented, the entire ceremony was over in just 75 minutes! TheatreBloom did its best to keep up with the awards as they were announced, live-posting them to the Facebook page, but it was truly a whirlwind experience that had to be witnessed to be fully experienced. As time progresses there will no doubt be a more fine-tuned version of the ceremony that will allow the nominated recipients a chance to speak their acceptance speeches more fully without the risk of running the event straight through midnight.
Though there was hardly time to breathe between presenters and recipients, one speech gave the evening great pause— the only speech to surface in its entirety on social media— and was an earnest reminder of what Helen Hayes represents: dedication, passion, and perseverance to ensure excellence and outstanding achievement in the craft. Presented in the “Helen” category, recipient Mark Minnick gave a tearful and heartfelt tribute as he accepted his award for Outstanding Choreography of a Musical for Spamalot at Toby’s Dinner Theatre. His brief but poignant speech was received to thunderous applause and hushed respect across the theatre.
In addition to the 47 award categories two special awards were presented to two theatre companies that have made their impression a lingering one upon Theatre Washington. The John Aniello Award for Outstanding Emerging Theatre Company was presented to Flying V, the recipient speech for which was the second most attention-grabbing of the evening.
Motivational energetic words were delivered by Jason Schlafstein, the company’s Producing Artistic Director. Reiterating the company’s motto of “Be Awesome” Schlafstein’s brief acceptance speech was also exceptionally well-received. The Washington Post Award for Innovative Leadership in Theatre Community was presented to National New Play Network as the evening’s other special award.
The award ceremony blew by, but not without the promise of the well-sought after “Theatre Prom” after party in its wake. Eager to celebrate with fellow members of the Washington Theatre Community, the 1,200 member audience exited the historical Lincoln Theatre and made the trek to the Howard Theatre, some 15 minutes away on foot. But encouragement was provided by the enthusiastic Theatre Washington Staff all along the way; every other block a few staff members and cleverly worded signs encouraged the parade forward to the reception venue. All along the way, nominees, attendees, and winners alike could be found conversing and congratulating one another, eagerly awaiting the festive celebration to begin inside The Howard.
A splendid time was had by all in attendance, the bar even included a “Helen Blue Note” special cocktail to further commemorate the evening. A truly brilliant event that celebrated the best that Washington Theatres had to offer in the 2014 season— nary a soul can wait for the eager and exciting process to begin again next year. Serving its purpose of continuing to inspire theatre companies, performers, artists, and creative minds across Washington DC, The Helen Hayes Awards were no less than a success, despite their whirlwind pacing, in 2015.
For a complete listing of the nominations and resulting winners, visit the Helen Hayes Theatre Washington Page.