The 28th Helen Hayes Awards Recognizing Outstanding Achievement in Washington Theatre

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Darlene Taylor
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Washington, DC – Tonight before a crowd of 2000 theatre-makers and theatre-lovers at the historic Warner Theatre, theatreWashington celebrated excellence on Washington stages at the 28th Helen Hayes Awards. Actor and Arts Advocate Kevin Spacey was recognized with the Helen Hayes Tribute introduced by President Bill Clinton in a special videotaped message.

The awards celebration was a night of excitement and surprise as 31 Washington theatre artists, theatres, and ensembles received honors for their outstanding accomplishments during the 2011 theatre season.

Luminaries from media and politics, alongside leading players in Washington theatre presented awards in 26 categories for outstanding achievement. To acknowledge the significance of the occasion, District of Columbia Mayor Vincent Gray declared April 23, 2012, Helen Hayes Awards Day.

Holly Twyford and Felicia Curry, both award-winning actresses, served as hosts of the proceedings, leading an ensemble of eight Washington performers and punctuating the evening with song and sass.

The cast of celebrity presenters - MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, National Public Radio’s Nina Totenberg, Tony Award winning lighting designer Brian MacDevitt, Kennedy Center Vice President, Mickey Berra, were joined by political leaders Congressman Jim Moran, Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, DC Councilmember Jack Evans, and Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett.

Actor and Arts Advocate Kevin Spacey was on hand to receive the prestigious Helen Hayes Tribute, sponsored by theatre philanthropist Jaylee Mead. In a special videotaped message, President Bill Clinton introduced the tribute to Spacey’s 30 year-long career. Spacey was recognized for his accomplishments both on stage and screen and the life-changing impact he makes through his foundation and advocacy for arts funding.

In appreciation for the honor, Spacey stated, “I am very grateful to be receiving the Helen Hayes Tribute. Some of the most wonderful and significant moments in my professional career have happened for me during productions I've done in Washington, DC, where Helen Hayes was born. It is through the excellence of the work recognized by the Helen Hayes Awards that continues to shine a light on the important work happening in the DC area. I am very proud to be included in this year’s ceremony.”

“Spacey embodies the principles Jaylee Mead and her late husband Gil sought to honor when they endowed the tribute,” said Victor Shargai, Chair of the theatreWashington Board of Directors. “His work on stage and in film exemplifies excellence and an exceptional commitment to theatre.” Spacey stands rightfully among the titans of theatre such as James Earl Jones, Mary Martin, Derek Jacobi, Stephen Sondheim, Chita Rivera, Kander and Ebb, Edward Albee, Terrance McNally, and Lynn Redgrave who preceded him as recipients of The Helen Hayes Tribute.

Washington Post President and General Manager, Stephen Hills presented the 26th Washington Post Award for Innovative Leadership in the Theatre Community to visionaries, Jane Lang and Paul Sprenger for their leadership to develop the Atlas Performing Arts Center, and thus revitalizing the H Street, NE neighborhood. Hills remarked, “The Atlas Performing Arts Center stands as an example of Jane and Paul’s commitment to make performing arts and arts education accessible to professional and emerging artists and affordable to all audiences,”

Faction of Fools Theatre Company received the John Aniello Award for Outstanding Emerging Theatre Company for re-imagining and re-interpreting works from the tradition of 16th century Commedia dell' Arte to modern audiences.

The James MacArthur Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor, named for Helen Hayes’ son, the late actor who was a stalwart champion of the Awards, was presented by his wife Helen Beth MacArthur. The Charles MacArthur Award for Outstanding New Play or Musical, named for the lauded playwright and Helen Hayes’s late husband, was presented by his granddaughter, Juliette Rappaport.

For the list of recipients and images click here.

As the 2000 Helen Hayes Award audience members departed the Warner Theatre, the evening’s presenters stood at the ready with yellow buckets in hand to collect donations for theatreWashington’s new initiative Taking Care of Our Own to provide emergency funds to area theatre professionals experiencing hardship. The effort is modeled on programs such as Broadway Cares and successful benefits held in the theatre community.

The Washington Post hosted both an elegant, star-studded pre-Awards reception and club-like lounge at the after-party. Following the Awards at the Ovation Gala at the JW Marriott Hotel, guests danced, partied, reveled, networked, tweeted and face booked. The Gala became a nightclub hot-spot with a rhythmic dance floor, exciting lighting displays, and interactive photo-booths, while a showcase of sponsors and a taste of what’s on Washington stage played in the background. Guests shared their own party pictures thanks to a corps of social media ambassadors who provided QR code cards that allowed them to immediately post their images on the theatreWashington face book page.

The Helen Hayes Awards is a signature program of theatreWashington, the only organization that promotes, supports, and represents Washington area theatres, artists, and diverse audiences of all ages. Washington, DC’s theatre community is among the largest and most successful in the nation. With nearly 80 professional theatre companies, Greater Washington is second only to New York for the number of productions produced each year. During the 2011 season, 53 theatres produced 192 productions in the January 1 – December 31 judging cycle.

About theatreWashington
Building on nearly three decades of service as The Helen Hayes Awards, theatreWashington is the unified voice of Washington area theatre and is the only organization dedicated solely to promoting, representing and supporting all segments of Washington’s professional theatre community – theatres, artists, company members and diverse audiences of all ages. The Helen Hayes Awards is a signature program of theatreWashington.