Theatre Washington, the organization that administers the awards, also announced that former Washington Post theater critic Peter Marks will receive the Helen Hayes Tribute at this year’s ceremony, held May 20 at the Anthem and hosted by local actors Felicia Curry, Rayanne Gonzales, Maria Rizzo and Tom Story. Marks, who recently left The Post after a 21-year tenure, joins the likes of August Wilson, Angela Lansbury, Stephen Sondheim and James Earl Jones in receiving the honor.
“This award appreciates and honors Marks’ decades of knowledgeable and thoughtful writing,” Theatre Washington said in a news release. “He offered nuanced theatre criticism and reporting with respect, relish, and generosity.”
The Helen Hayes Awards launched in 1984 and, for the past decade, have been split into two designations: “Helen” for smaller productions with mostly non-equity actors and “Hayes” for larger shows with mostly equity casts. Solas Nua’s world-premiere drama “The Honey Trap” led all Helen productions with 10 nominations, including the Charles MacArthur Award for outstanding new play or musical.
The nominations for “Swept Away,” a new jukebox musical about a 19th-century shipwreck, included nods for director Michael Mayer and three actors: John Gallagher Jr., Stark Sands and Adrian Blake Enscoe, all of whom will compete in the gender-neutral lead performer in a musical category.
“Ragtime’s” Nkrumah Gatling will also contend for that prize, with co-stars Awa Sal Secka, Dani Stoller, Matthew Lamb and Rizzo up for supporting performer in a musical. That quartet will face three actors from the Kennedy Center’s revival of “Monty Python’s Spamalot” — a spring production that earned a Broadway transfer — in Rob McClure, Leslie Rodriguez Kritzer and Michael Urie. (McClure also picked up a nod for performer in a visiting production for “Mrs. Doubtfire” at the National Theatre.)
“Angels in America,” playwright Tony Kushner’s fantastical portrait of life amid the AIDS epidemic, landed nominations for five actors: lead performers Deborah Ann Woll and Nick Westrate and supporting performers Billie Krishawn, Justin Weaks and Susan Rome. “Angels” will face Studio Theatre’s “Fat Ham,” the Shakespeare Theatre Company’s “Here There Are Blueberries,” Woolly Mammoth Theatre’s “My Mama and the Full-Scale Invasion” and Signature’s “King of the Yees” for best play (Hayes).
The immersive refugee drama “The Jungle,” which followed engagements in London, New York and San Francisco with a Shakespeare Theatre staging, led all visiting productions with five nominations.
Theatre Washington also honored GALA Hispanic Theatre Executive Director Rebecca Medrano with the Victor Shargai Leadership Award during the nominations announcement at the Atlas Performing Arts Center.
Medrano has navigated GALA through myriad challenges over the past year, including the May death of her husband, Hugo — with whom she co-founded the Columbia Heights institution in 1976 — and the search for his successor as artistic director that ended with the December hiring of Gustavo Ott. Just days into Ott’s tenure, GALA last week said a cyberattack drained its coffers of more than $250,000, prompting the theater to call for donations it says are necessary for the company to stay afloat while it attempts to recover the funds.
The Helen Hayes Awards are determined by 49 volunteer judges, who considered 151 eligible productions. A list of nominees from all 41 categories can be found on the Theatre Washington website.