As Washington, D.C. area theatre has developed over decades, so have we – growing from an awards program to a service and partnership organization.

The Story of Theatre Washington

In the early 1980s the Washington Theatre Awards Society was founded to recognize and encourage excellence in professional theatre in the Washington, DC region through the presentation of The Helen Hayes Awards.

The first few Helen Hayes Awards presentations helped the region and the country to understand the quality of theatrical excellence to be found on Washington area stages. The prestigious credential celebrated theatres and theatre makers by recognizing performances, design, playwriting, and productions. Additionally, the organization led education and communication programs, but the early success of the Helen Hayes Awards made it easier to do business under that name for more than two decades.

In 2011, with the encouragement of a wide range of stakeholders, a stronger and more robust organization evolved – theatreWashington (lower case t, capital W). It was a call to evolve from an Awards presenter to a more layered organization to serve the community. Presently, working in tandem with the community, Theatre Washington (two words, capital T, capital W) is evolving into a full partnership organization in service to the community with multiple year round, core programs.

As we reflect on the history of Theatre Washington we acknowledge that marginalized communities have yet to be fully welcomed, appreciated, and celebrated. By centering the voices we have heard the least, and working in partnership with institutions, we seek to live out anti-racist and anti-oppression values. Moving forward, our work will take on structural racism in its many forms, including our internal working as an organization, where we are actively addressing how to create anti-racist structures and policies, and to address its barriers and impacts to the field in our region. We recognize that we cannot achieve our full potential without addressing long-standing gaps and challenges. We imagine a future where Washington, DC-area theatre is an example of how an equitable and inclusive arts community can uplift an entire region.