“Helen” and “Hayes”
To address the challenges of an expanding theatre community, productions eligible for a Helen Hayes Award will now be adjudicated as either a Helen production or a Hayes production. Productions in which less than 51% of the cast appears on an Actors Equity Association (Equity) Contract and has less than three Equity contracted actors in the cast will be assessed by the “Helen” judges. Productions presented under a theatre company’s Equity agreement or a production in which at least 51% of the cast is working on an Equity Contract will be assessed by the “Hayes” judges. The emphasis on theatre productions, rather than theatre companies, means that a single institution might well produce individual pieces of work evaluated by each of group of judges. The groupings are solely for administrative purposes; all awards are still Helen Hayes Awards.
Also critical to the restructuring of the awards is the qualifications of judges, a responsibility that will now more heavily involve the theatre community’s artistic leadership. With the restructuring of the awards, judges will be nominated by individual artistic directors, vetted by theatreWashington staff, and then voted upon by all artistic directors, who will have access to application materials and resumes.
Nominees and Recipients
Previously, the judges’ scoring of production elements created statistical reports that simultaneously determined nominees and recipients. That point-based system will continue to identify nominees, but a new “second look” element has been added to the process of determining final recipients. At the close of the calendar year, judges will meet in their groups and review all nominated productions through the use of visual representations and open discussion. Facilitators will ensure that the exercise is one of recall and sharing, not of lobbying or persuasion. Judges will then rank the nominees in each category by secret ballot. The results will determine award recipients.
How This Happened
Throughout its three decades, the Helen Hayes Awards has refined and revised its adjudication process to meet the community’s changing needs. A Task Force appointed by the theatreWashington Board of Directors carried out this most recent restructuring. Its objectives were to: 1) improve the quality, consistency, and credibility of Awards judging, 2) increase the value of the Helen Hayes Awards brand, 3) improve the process by which Awards nominees and recipients are determined, 4) develop an adjudication system that is administratively manageable, and 5) continuing to build and promote a sense of community among the region’s theatre professionals.
Key to the process were contributions from the Helen Hayes Awards Board of Governors, a “Summit” open to all theatre professionals, and small group conversations during which a wide range of artists and administrators shared their vision for the Helen Hayes Awards. The Task Force then shared ideas with individuals and small groups of theatre professionals for their feedback and suggestions The revised recommendations were shared with the theatreWashington Executive Committee, which subsequently made its recommendation to the theatreWashington Board of Directors.