Monday night’s Helen Hayes Awards at Lincoln Theatre clocked in at a mere 75 minutes. It’s never been so short. Odd, because this year was also the first time that judged productions were split into two awards sections — “Helen” and “Hayes” depending on the ratio of union actors in a production (“Hayes” shows have more union actors and are typically produced by the bigger companies) — increasing the total count to a whopping 49 categories, about double the number of past years.
So how’d they do it? To avoid what might have been a lumbering night, the event’s support organization theatreWashington presented a lighting fast version of past ceremonies. To keep up this break-neck pace, winners were allowed precisely 30 seconds of speech time before the onstage jazz quartet good-naturedly but firmly began to play. Quite a few award recipients sprinted to the microphone (some of the women removed their high heels), and most were forced to deliver a rushed thank you. Not the shining moment they’d imagined. Also, the show was stripped of entertainment — for better or worse, there was no song and dance.
The big Hayes winners included Olney Theatre’s “Colossal,” a new play about college football, same-sex attraction, love and disability. In addition to winning best play, it garnered awards for director Will Davis who is transgender, playwright Andrew Hinderaker, and Ben Cunis and Christopher D’Amboise for movement and choreography. Christopher Baine won for sound design.
Best Hayes musical was a tie between Signature’s “Sunday in the Park with George” and the Kennedy Center’s “Sideshow.” Out director Matthew Gardiner deservedly won outstanding director for “Sunday in the Park with George.” He thanked Signature’s artistic director Eric Schaeffer for the integral role he’s played in his career.
Best Helen musical went to Theater Alliance’s “Black Nativity.”
When collecting his award for outstanding musical direction for “Black Nativity,” e’Marcus Harper-Short thanked his non-theater husband. After rapidly rattling the names of cast and crew, Steven Royal who won best direction for 1st Stage’s “Bat Boy” (another Helen production) mentioned his boyfriend, I think. The band stepped on his last words. It was hard to hear.
In an especially competitive Hayes category, Kimberly Gilbert won for her star turn as the ill-fated queen in Woolly Mammoth’s “Marie Antoinette.”
Outstanding visiting production went to Shakespeare Theatre Company for Emma Rice’s “Brief Encounter,” a delightfully modern take based on the iconic 1945 movie and Noël Coward’s play “Still Life.”
Best Helen play went to Theater Alliances’ “The Wonderful World of Dissocia.”
And rather unexpectedly, the outstanding play for a Hayes production went to Studio Theatre’s “Cock,” British playwright John Bartlett’s play about a gay couple’s uneasy relationship. In his brief acceptance speech, director David Muse said the jokes can now commence — he won a Helen Hayes for his “Cock.”
For a complete list of winners go to theatreWashingnton.org.
CLICK HERE to see more photos from the 2015 Helen Hayes Awards and after party.