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Helen Hayes Award

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A Helen Hayes Award is a theater award recognizing excellence in professional theater in the Washington, D.C. area since 1983. The awards are named in tribute to Helen Hayes, known as the "First Lady of American Theatre." They are presented by theatreWashington (formerly known as the Helen Hayes Awards organization).[1]

Helen Hayes Award
Awarded for Excellence in professional theatre in the Washington, D.C. area
Country United States
Presented by theatreWashington
First awarded 1983



In 1983, together with producing partner Arthur Cantor and Washington Post critic emeritus Richard L. Coe, Broadway producer Bonnie Nelson Schwartz presented a plan for strengthening and cultivating theatre in her home city, Washington, D.C., to the first lady of the American theatre and native Washingtonian, Helen Hayes, who embraced the idea. The Washington Theatre Awards Society was founded to recognize and encourage excellence in professional theatre in the Washington region through the presentation of the Helen Hayes Awards.

The organization launched education and communication programs. The early success of the Helen Hayes Awards suggested that the organization do business under the name of its most visible program. Eventually, at the input of the theatre community and a wide range of stakeholders, the organization aimed to become more robust, and adopted the name "theatreWashington" to better reflect the breadth and geographic scope of its realigned activities.[2]

Due to criticism of the "one size fits all" philosophy of the awards, in September 2013 theatreWashington announced that, effective with the 2015 awards, the awards would be split into

  1. The Helen Group of Awards for non-Equity productions defined to be those that have no more than three equity actors or the equity actors make up less than 51% of the cast.
  2. The Hayes Group of Awards for productions employing too many equity actors to qualify for the Helen Group.

These awards would be at the production level, not at the company level.[3][4][5]

Awards categoriesEdit

With nearly 80 professional theatre companies, Washington, D. C., is second only to New York for the number of productions each year.[citation needed] During the 2011 season, 53 theatres produced 192 shows in the January 1 – December 31 judging cycle. From these shows, 153 artists, ensembles, and productions from 26 theatres were nominated for Helen Hayes Awards, which are given for resident and nonresident productions. The awards for acting, directing, design, choreography, productions, and more include:

  • Resident Play
    • Outstanding Director
    • Outstanding Supporting Actress
    • Outstanding Lead Actress
    • Outstanding Ensemble
    • Outstanding Resident Play
  • Resident Musical
    • Outstanding Director
    • Outstanding Supporting Actor
    • Outstanding Supporting Actress
    • Outstanding Ensemble
    • Outstanding Lead Actor
    • Outstanding Lead Actress
    • Outstanding Resident Musical
  • Resident Production
    • Outstanding Set Design
    • Outstanding Lighting Design
    • Outstanding Sound Design
    • Outstanding Musical Direction
    • Outstanding Choreography
    • Outstanding Costume Design
  • Nonresident Production
    • Outstanding Lead Actor
    • Outstanding Lead Actress
    • Outstanding Supporting Performer
    • Outstanding Nonresident Production
  • Special Awards
    • The Charles MacArthur Award – for Outstanding New Play or Musical
    • The Washington Post Award – for Innovative Leadership in the Theatre Community
    • The John Aniello Award – for Outstanding Emerging Theatre Company
    • The James MacArthur Award – for Outstanding Supporting Actor, Resident Play
    • The Robert Prosky Award – for Outstanding Lead Actor, Resident Play
    • Outstanding Production – Theatre for Young Audiences

Nominee and recipient selectionEdit

  • Eight judges from a judging pool, specifically endorsed for the purpose by a panel of Washington-area artistic directors, are dispatched to see each eligible production.
  • Each judge evaluates each artist’s work in the production on a 0-10 graded point scale in each of applicable categories. Ballots must be submitted within 24 hours of the judge’s attendance.
  • Judges have no idea as to the Awards status of any work they have seen and scored until the public does, i.e., when the nominees (and then the recipients) are announced.
  • At the conclusion of the 12-month judging cycle (January–December), the scores from the eight judges who saw each production are tabulated by an independent analysis firm.
  • In all, about 22,000 scores are analyzed annually, using standardized and widely accepted statistical models.
  • The productions, designs, and performances receiving the top-five final scores in each category become the nominees. In the case of tie votes, a tie-breaking system is used, and if the tie still cannot be broken, the number of nominees is simply increased.
  • Following the public announcement of the nominees, the process continues to determine the award recipient in each category. Again, in the case of tie votes, a tie-breaking system is used, and if the tie still cannot be broken, the number of recipients is increased.[6]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "". Retrieved 2012-07-09.  External link in |title= (help)
  2. ^ "". Retrieved 2012-07-09.  External link in |title= (help)
  3. ^ Pressley, Nelson (17 September 2013). "Helen Hayes Awards will split nominees into two groups based on Equity involvement". The Washington Post. Retrieved 18 September 2013. 
  4. ^ Pressley, Nelson (2012-04-20). "Helen Hayes Awards could use a two-tiered approach to Washington theater". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2012-12-08. 
  5. ^ Pressley, Nelson (2012-01-22). "New Helen Hayes Awards could spur diverse theater". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2012-12-08. 
  6. ^ "". Retrieved 2012-07-09.  External link in |title= (help)

External linksEdit