theatreWashington has announced updated plans for the 36th annual Helen Hayes Awards—originally scheduled to take place at The Anthem on May 18, 2020, but postponed because of COVID. Celebrated as a series of virtual events over four weeks, the 2020 Awards will recognize the outstanding work produced on Washington-area stages in 2019.
Individual award announcements August 31 to September 11, 2020
The Helen Hayes Awards for individual achievements will be announced via 20 Zoom calls with nominees, presenters, guests from the community, and media from August 31 to September 11, 2020. Awards will be grouped to include both the Helen and Hayes nominees/recipients in most categories. As soon as disclosed on the calls, recipient announcements will also be made in real time via theatreWashington’s Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter feeds.
Virtual finale event Friday, September 25, 2020
As a culmination of the 2020 Helen Hayes Awards celebrations, the community will gather together virtually for a celebration event. Co-hosted by Washington stage luminaries Felicia Curry and Naomi Jacobson, the event will include additional award announcements—for outstanding productions, ensembles, and the John Aniello Award for Outstanding Emerging Theatre Company—in addition to other announcements, stories, remembrances, special guest appearances, and fun surprises. Registration will be available soon.
About the 2020 Helen Hayes Awards
Recognizing work from 185 eligible productions presented in the 2019 calendar year, there are 255 nominations in 47 categories grouped in “Helen” or “Hayes” cohorts, depending on the number of Equity members involved in the production. Nominations are the result of 40 carefully vetted judges’ evaluation of 2,570 individual pieces of work, including design, direction, choreography, and performances. Productions under consideration in 2019 included 46 musicals, 139 plays, and 45 world premieres.
Gender-inclusive performance awards
This year, though adjudicated as “actor” and “actress,” 16 performance categories are being renamed and will be integrated and presented as gender-inclusive awards—identified, for example, 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 2021 Helen Hayes Awards (for productions in calendar year 2020), the performance categories, will be adjudicated gender-inclusively and expanded to ten nominees each (from the previous five). Two recipients will be chosen for each category to maintain the current number of recipients that are selected and honored each year. A full history of this evolution, process, and further details will be available soon.
Taking Care Fund
During the Helen Hayes Awards season, theatreWashington will be raising money for the Taking Care COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund. This Fund, started in March 2020, has surpassed its original goal of $330,000—which was distributed in microgrants to local theater professionals in need during the near shutdown of our industry. We now have a gift of $25,000—from generous community donors, foundations, and the board of directors of theatreWashington—to be matched by the community, raising an additional $50,000 for this Fund. Those wishing to make a donation to the Taking Care COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund, can do so here.
The Victor Shargai Leadership Award
theatreWashington continues to celebrate Victor Shargai, long-time theatreWashington board chair, theater lover, and philanthropist, who passed away peacefully at home on December 24, 2019. For decades, Victor dedicated himself to celebrating theater artists and strengthening the theater institutions in the Washington, DC, region. As a champion and a supporter, and with his beloved husband Craig Pascal, he believed fervently in theater’s power to transform lives and communities. On the occasion of a memorial celebration of his life in July 2020, in partnership with Craig Pascal, Amy Austin (President & CEO of theatreWashington) announced the creation of a new Helen Hayes Award in Victor’s honor. The Victor Shargai Leadership Award will recognize excellence in leadership in a new way. The first award will be given in 2021.
About the Helen Hayes Awards
The Helen Hayes Awards, now in its 36th year, recognizes outstanding achievement in more than 60 professional theaers across the Washington metropolitan area. Named for legendary First Lady of the American Theater Helen Hayes—a Washington native—the award celebrates the artists and companies whose excellence exemplifies a standard of artistry that has made Washington a thriving, internationally recognized theater town.
Nominations are the result of a rigorous year-long process in which 40 judges on five panels attend approximately 200 eligible productions, including 40 to 50 world premieres. The 2020 Awards honor the plays produced on Washington stages in 2019.
The administration and celebration of the Helen Hayes Awards is just one element of theatreWashington’s mission, which is to strengthen, represent, and support all segments of Washington’s professional theater community, including theater companies, artists, staff, and diverse audiences of all ages. Over more than three decades of support and advocacy, theatreWashington has played a vital role in the city’s cultural identity.