About the Awards

The Helen Hayes Awards recognize outstanding achievement from more than 90 professional theatres and hundreds of theatre-makers across the Washington, DC-area each year. Named for Helen Hayes – the legendary First Lady of the American Theatre and 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.

2020-2021 Update

In 2020 and 2021, Theatre Washington engaged in a thoughtful restructuring of organization-wide governance and leadership in order to prioritize anti-racist and anti-oppressive values and as our community begins the transition back to more in-person performances, we felt it was critical to make some changes to the nomination process for Helen Hayes judges and provide bias-awareness training to them before we resume adjudicating productions. Adjudication of in-person productions has resumed in 2022. 

Learn more about this decision, the details, and the timeline.

Gender-Inclusive Helen Hayes Awards

The Helen Hayes Awards adjudication committee recently pursued a process to make the performance Awards gender-inclusive. After research, consultation with other award organizations, and input from the community – including nonbinary and transgender performers – the committee determined that beginning with the 2020 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 are now chosen for each category to maintain the current number of recipients that are awarded 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 at a special event in 2022.

All Award Categories

There are currently Awards given in 42 categories each year, including the Helen Hayes Tribute Award and the John Aniello Award for Outstanding Emerging Theatre Company. 

See a full list of Helen Hayes Awards categories.