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The vibrant Washington, D.C. theatre community gathered at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts Monday evening, May 7, for the 2001 Helen Hayes Awards and their celebration of theatre in Washington, D.C. and the wonderful performances that were given this year.
The Awards show opened with actor/mime (and 2001 Helen Hayes nominee for Outstanding Supporting Performer, Resident Musical) Mark Jaster's comical attempt to play a saw as if it were a violin. A montage recognizing the nominees in every category followed, and the enthusiasm for the various shows was evident as supporters cheered for the nominees. S. Epatha Merkerson, Mistress of Ceremonies, provided humor, "rules" regarding the acceptance speeches, and the Helen Hayes version of the HDTV incentive offered by the Academy Awards for the shortest acceptance speech (a TV from the 1970s, complete with rabbit-ear antennas).
An array of special guests were welcomed to announce recipients of the Helen Hayes Awards, including the father-daughter team of Rip Torn and Angelica Torn (2000 Helen Hayes recipient for her role in Side Man); Richard Thomas and Emery Battis (who has, over the course of his impressive career, performed all but two of William Shakespeare's plays); Paxton Whitehead and Yeardley Smith; and Karen Akers.
James MacArthur (son of actress Helen Hayes and playwright Charles MacArthur) discussed the history of the Helen Hayes Awards and The Charles MacArthur Award for Outstanding New Play, noting that 56 new plays were presented here last year. Mr. MacArthur was joined by Caleen Sinette Jennings to present The Charles MacArthur Award for Outstanding New Play to A House in the Country by Peter Coy, Charter Theatre. Lee Mikeska Gardner received the award for Outstanding Lead Actress, Resident Play, for her work in this play as well.
The Glass Menagerie, presented jointly by Round House Theatre and Everyman Theatre, received the award for Outstanding Resident Play, as well as the award for Outstanding Director, Resident Play, for Donald Hicken. Signature Theatre's Side Show received the award for Outstanding Resident Musical, as well as awards for Outstanding Director, Resident Musical, for Joe Calarco, Outstanding Lead Actress, Resident Musical, for Sherri L. Edelen and Outstanding Supporting Performer, Resident Musical, for Eric Jordan Young.
The award for Outstanding Lead Actor, Resident Musical, went to Dwayne Nitz for his performance in Sing Down the Moon: Appalachian Wonder Tales, Theater of the First Amendment, and the award for Outstanding Lead Actor, Resident Play, went to Philip Goodwin for his performance in Timon of Athens, The Shakespeare Theatre.
As for the Non-Resident Productions, where diverse shows such as W;t, Blast!, and It Ain't Nothin' But the Blues are in the same category, the award for Outstanding Non-Resident Production went to James Joyce's The Dead, presented by The Kennedy Center. Marc Wolf in Another American: Asking and Telling, presented by The Studio Theatre, received the award for Outstanding Lead Actor, Non-Resident Production.
Judith Light received the award for Outstanding Lead Actress, Non-Resident Production for her portrayal of Dr. Vivian Bearing in Margaret Edson's W;t, presented by The Kennedy Center. In her acceptance speech, Ms. Light stated that it was nice to be back at The Kennedy Center "a lot warmer and with hair." Ms. Light, who will be appearing next month at The Shakespeare Theatre in Hedda Gabler, also stated that one of the reasons she decided to take on the tour of W;t was the opportunity to perform in Washington, D.C. at The Kennedy Center.
The Helen Hayes Tribute, sponsored by American Airlines, was bestowed upon Philip Bosco, whose 54-year acting career began at Washington, D.C.'s Catholic University. Mr. Bosco's professional stage work in Washington, D.C. includes summers performing at Olney Theatre and work as a resident actor with Arena Stage. A collection of photographs and Playbills spanning Mr. Bosco's career thus far was projected during the Tribute. Mr. Bosco was gracious in his acceptance speech, recalling fondly his years working in Washington, D.C.
The Washington Post Award for Distinguished Community Service was presented to Arlington County for the Arts Incubator Program, and the KPMG Award for Distinguished Service to the Washington Theatre Community was presented to David Rutstein.
The audience was treated to performances from three of the nominated resident musicals: the cast of Round House Theatre's You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown performed the snappy "Suppertime"; E. Faye Butler performed a roof-raising rendition of "Long John" from Arena Stage's production of Dinah Was; and the cast of the Signature Theatre's The Rhythm Club performed the swingin' number "That Harlem Sound."
A pleasant surprise was Ms. Merkerson closing the 2001 Helen Hayes Awards with a song. The Awards show was followed by The Ovation Gala on the Terrace Roof Level of The Kennedy Center.
Click here for a complete list of the recipients of the 2001 Helen Hayes Awards.