In an announcement online today, Theater Washington announced suspension of Helen Hayes Awards for 2021 and major internal changes to the nomination and judging process going forward. A statement on the organization’s website explained:
We are engaging in a thoughtful restructuring of organization-wide governance and leadership, including boards and committees in order to prioritize anti-racist and anti-oppressive values. 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. This is a good time to reevaluate our process given COVID’s impact on live performances and the work we have been doing to consider the biases that have been part of our institutional systems.
Internally, the Helen Hayes Awards Adjudication Committee and Judges will be reevaluated and restructured:
We will create guidelines and policies on how we actively recruit, seat, train, and retain new Helen Hayes Awards judges;
We will develop a process for reseating or releasing current judges;
All judges will receive bias awareness training.
To allow time for these changes, no productions from calendar year 2021 will be adjudicated. Theatre Washington plans to resume adjudicating live productions in calendar year 2022—with an eye to an awards ceremony in spring 2023—and virtual or digital productions will not be considered.