Monday night the 2015 Helen Hayes Awards nominations were announced at the National Theatre. But this year it took longer. A newly instituted judging process greatly expands the nomination categories to 47, and divides them into two sections — the Helen and the Hayes. The former includes non-Equity (union) productions and the latter is for Equity shows.
The nattily dressed Kurt Crowl, board chair of theatreWashington (which administers and presents the awards), welcomed the eager roomful who braved the snow to hear the announcements live. He tentatively promised that when the prestigious awards are doled out on April 6 at the National Building Museum, the event won’t extend into a sleepover.
In the Hayes division, the big winner was Signature Theatre garnering multiple nominations for “Beaches,” “The Threepenny Opera” and “Sunday in the Park with George.”
The Olney Theatre Center’s “Colossal” (a Hayes production) received eight nominations including Outstanding Director for Will Davis, who is transgender. Joseph Carlson received an acting nomination for his intense portrayal of a gay college football player who sustains a devastating injury on the gridiron.
The big Helen winner was Synetic Theatre with 23 nominations. Theatre Alliance’s “Black Nativity” and “The Wonderful World of Dissocia” fared well too.
Factory 449’s “The Amish Project” (a Helen play) garnered nominations for out director Holly Twyford, out designer Greg Stevens, and Nanna Ingvarsson who played all the parts in this recounting of a massacre of Amish schoolgirls.
Holly Twyford was also nominated for her terrific turn as a serious writer in Signature’s “Sex With Strangers.” Out actor Sarah Marshall received a nod for playing the Sheep in Woolly Mammoth’s “Marie Antoinette.” Both are Hayes productions.
Talented out music directors Jay Crowder and Jon Kalbfleisch were nominated for “Violet” at Ford’s Theatre and Signature’s revival of Sondheim’s “Sunday in the Park with George.” (Hayes shows).
And young out designer Collin Ranney landed four nominations for his work in Helen productions, garnering costume honors for Adventure Theatre MTC’s “Tiny Tim’s Christmas Carol,” Theater Alliance’s “Black Nativity” as well as Theatre Alliance’s “The Wonderful World of Dissocia” for which he also received a nomination for set design.
“For me, being nominated for one production was overwhelming. After learning it was more than that, I was, for once, speechless,” says Ranney, who did not attend the event but learned the good news via text message. “Being recognized by your colleagues and peers always takes on more weight.”
Sustainability as a freelance designer in D.C. is difficult at times, adds Ranney. In addition to his busy design schedule, he regularly performs as drag persona Birdie LaCage at JR.’s Bar & Grill on Tuesdays.
“Should I win or lose on April 6, I think I will be celebrating the same way every nominee will be; by enjoying being a part of a community that continues to work for the love of the craft and having a good time at the party.”
For a complete list of Helen Hayes Award Nominations go to theatrewashington.org.