Building on 30 years of credibility and service as The Helen Hayes Awards, theatreWashington is the only organization dedicated to supporting and representing all sectors of the Washington theatre community — theatres, professionals, and diverse audiences of all ages — to build a strong, vibrant, connected community.
theatreWashington represents a collective of the Washington area’s 90+ professional theatres, each of which contributes mightily to the quality of life and the economy of this community.
celebrates excellence on Washington stages to promote their individual and combined strength.
What’s Past is Prologue
In the early 1980s 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. At that time, there were fewer than ten producing theatres in the DC area.
But after the first few Helen Hayes Awards presentations, the region and the country understood the quality of theatrical excellence to be found on Washington area stages. Using this prestigious credential, theatres attracted new audiences and support, they invested in programming and infrastructure, and in response, audiences grew and artists came to Washington to do the work they loved in a place where they could put down roots.
We launched innovative education and communication programs, but the early success of the Helen Hayes Awards suggested that we do business under the name of our most visible program.
Nearly three decades later, Washington’s theatre community is among the largest and most successful in the nation. More than 80 professional theatres and companies enliven the capital area, anchoring neighborhoods, fueling the regions’ economy, and producing work of the finest quality.
By building audiences, by introducing tens of thousands of area students to theatre, by promoting Washington across the nation as a vibrant cultural capital, and with the national and international significance of The Helen Hayes Awards, our organization has helped drive the continually tremendous growth of Washington theatre. In 2011, at the request of the theatre community and the encouragement of a wide range of stakeholders, a stronger and more robust organization evolved; an organization newly configured but built on 27 years of credibility, capacity, endorsement, and leadership.