The mood was jubilant at the Warner Theatre and the JW Marriott as D.C.’s theatre community gathered to honor the outstanding among them.
By Julie LaPorte
It was a night of celebration. Filling the Warner Theatre for the 26th Helen Hayes Awards were directors, producers, actors and actresses, lighting and sound directors, stage crew and faithful supporters, all joining together to honor outstanding achievement throughout the D.C. theatre scene.
“Theatres are the temple of art,” said Linda Levy Grossman, Executive Producer of the Helen Hayes Awards. Dedicated to preserving the legacy of D.C.’s first lady of the stage Helen Hayes, the Helen Hayes Awards has spent over 25 years building audiences, honoring excellence and educating theatregoers. The awards are among the most prestigious theatre awards in the country.
“Theatre gives me incredible joy,” said Victor Shargai, Chairman of the Board. “It’s a life-affirming feeling that makes me want to shout, a heightened sensation of being.” No one in the room would disagree, and the atmosphere was charged with excitement. It felt like a cast party after a successful run – self-congratulatory and carefree.
Jaylee Mead and Terrence McNally joined together to present the special Helen Hayes Awards Tribute to Edward Albee whose “imagination and innovation have earned him a place in the pantheon of the world’s great modern playwrights.” Known for plays like The Zoo Story (1959) and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1960), Albee’s works are brave and continue to challenge audiences with every reincarnation.
Punctuated by cheers, award after award was handed, covering every possible category of the theatre. “I’m 73 – this is my just-in-time,” said Laurence O’Dwyer, who won the Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a resident musical for his role in Arena Stage’s The Fantasticks.
“I’ve traveled so much, and I’ve never seen the passion for theatre that I’ve seen in Washington, D.C.,” said Jim Brochu, who won the Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a non-resident production for his role in Theater J’s Zero Hour. It was a sentiment repeated over and over throughout the night.
“Of all the fantastic illusions in the play, none is more fantastic than the illusion of the individual. It’s all about the ensemble,” said Karl Miller, recipient of the Robert Prosky Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a resident play for his role in Forum Theatre’s Angels in America: Millennium Approaches.
Marcia Milgrom Dodge, who won the Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding Director in a resident musical for the Kennedy Center’s Ragtime said of the production, “It was profoundly beautiful work. I was proud of every performance.”
Before the awards ceremony, attendees celebrated at the JW Marriott with a Chairman’s Reception and returned after the ceremony for an Ovation Gala that provided everyone a chance to eat and drink, mingle and dance.