Bringing the Washington, D.C. area theatre community together in recognition and celebration.

The Helen Hayes Awards recognize outstanding achievement from more than 90 professional theatres and hundreds of theatre-makers across the Washington metropolitan area. Named for the legendary First Lady of the American Theatre Helen Hayes – a Washington, DC native – the awards celebrate the artists and companies whose work makes the Washington, DC-area a thriving, nationally recognized theatre community.

Award nominations are the result of a year-long process in which 40 volunteer judges on five panels attend as many as 200 eligible productions, including dozens of world premieres. The Helen Hayes Awards are traditionally celebrated each spring during a festive awards ceremony and after-party.

Nominees & Recipients

A full, searchable database of past Helen Hayes Awards nominees and recipients will be available on our full website, launching later in 2021. In the meantime, for specific information or questions, please email

The 2020 Helen Hayes Awards

The 36th annual Helen Hayes Awards were celebrated over four weeks in August and September 2020 as a series of virtual events–both individual award announcements and a culmination video premiere. During this time, we recognized the outstanding work on Washington-area stages in 2019, reflected on this unprecedented time in our industry, and gathered our full community of theatre-makers through virtual spaces.

The full recording of all of the announcements by category and the culminating event video are available on the theatreWashington YouTube channel.

Gender Inclusive Helen Hayes Awards

In 2020, though adjudicated as outstanding actor and actress, the 16 performer categories were renamed, combined, and presented as gender-inclusive Awards– listed as Outstanding Lead Performer and Outstanding Supporting Performer with two recipients in each category. Since 2018, The Helen Hayes Awards adjudication committee has been pursuing a process to make these performance Awards gender-inclusive. After research, consultation with other award organizations, and input from the community–including nonbinary and transgender performers–the committee has announced that beginning with the next Helen Hayes Awards, the performer categories, will be adjudicated as gender-inclusive and expanded to ten nominees each (from the previous cap of five). Two recipients will be chosen for each category to maintain the current number of recipients that are chosen and honored each year.

Read a full history of the Helen Hayes Awards and the Transition to Gender Inclusive Performance Categories.

The Victor Shargai Leadership Award

In July 2020, in partnership with Craig Pascal, Amy Austin, President & CEO of Theatre Washington, announced the creation of a new Helen Hayes Award in Victor Shargai’s honor. The Victor Shargai Leadership Award will recognize excellence in a new way. The first award will be given when we can gather again.