Wednesday, February 29, 2012


Bill McSweeney, Rise Cole, Lionell Thomas of the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities.

by contributor Donna Shor
Photo credit:  Shannon Finney Photography

Two hundred ardent theater-goers and passionate theater professionals gathered at the National Theater to hear announced theatre Washington’s nominations for the 28th Helen Hayes Awards to be presented April 23rd. 

Lionell Thomas and Judith Terra of the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities with Victor Shargai

Linda Levy Grossman announcing the nominations
Victor Shargai, chairman of theatre Washington’s board of directors, congratulated the nominees for “the wonderful performances and productions that make Washington one of the top theater towns in the nation.”  Surprise, the Metropolitan Washington area, including bordering Maryland and Virginia, is second in the United States only to New York in the number of shows produced.

In 2011 Washington productions which met the Award’s strict eligibility requirements numbered 192, presented by 53 local theaters. Citing how enriching and moving these theatrical experiences are, Shargai said “Theatre not only entertains, it transforms.” 

Linda Levy Grossman, the group’s president and CEO, has pointed out that theatre also brings Washington revenues, benefitting local industries, restaurants, providers of production goods and services, and enhancing tourism...  

It was lucky Linda who got to announce–in a vocal tour de force–names of all 153 nominees in the 26 categories, along with names of their productions and their theaters, over 400 items in all. It would be interesting to know how her throat feels today.

Reporters Benjamin Freed of DCist, Sophie Gilbert of Washingtonian, and Jonathan Fischer of City Paper tweetting the nominations.

Far from being bored, the audience listened avidly to the long list, breaking out in cheers at many of the nominations. They whooped appreciatively when Shargai announced that Faction of Fools will be the recipient of the John Aniello Emerging Theatre Company Award. The late John Aniello was a longtime theatre supporter.     

Harriet Weil of Round House Theatre, Keith Alan Baker of The Studio Theatre, and Matt Wilson of Faction of Fools listening to the nomination announcement.

The Faction of Fools company, which is in residence at Gallaudet University, celebrates Commedia dell’ Arte, a theater form begun in 16th century northern Italy, flourishing especially in Venice, with players wearing traditional masks specific to the characters each portrayed..

The Helen Hayes Awards ceremonies are presented by the theatre Washington group, newly re-branded from its earlier and limiting title of “Helen Hayes Awards.”  The change reflects the dynamic growth of the area’s theater scene in the 27 years since the awards began, and the still-expanding services and support theatre Washington now provides area theatre groups.

theatreWashington Video Retrospective -- 2011