15th anni Hayes Awards honor Beltway theater

WASHINGTON — “Nijinsky’s Last Dance,” a new solo drama mounted here last fall by the Signature Theater, was the top winner at the Helen Hayes Awards, the D.C. area theater community’s annual celebration of excellence.

“Nijinsky,” local playwright Norman Allen’s saga about the troubled ballet dancer, won four awards, including resident production, director of a resident play (Joe Calarco), lighting design and sound design. Signature also won two awards for its production of “The Fix,” the acerbic political musical by Cameron Mackintosh — supporting performer in a resident musical (Sal Mistretta) and lead actor (Stephen Bienskie).

The Hayes awards were also successful for Arena Stage, which took home five honors including resident musical for “Thunder Knocking on the Door,” a blues musical co-produced with the Cincinnati Playhouse.

“Thunder” also won for lead actress in a resident musical (Marva Hicks) and musical direction (Anderson Edwards). Arena’s “Lover and Executioners,” written by John Strand, won the Charles MacArthur Award for outstanding new play, which was presented by James MacArthur, son of Helen Hayes and Charles MacArthur.

This year’s awards show at the Kennedy Center was emceed by actress Tyne Daly. Liza Minnelli presented a tribute to the creative team of John Kander and Fred Ebb.

Ted van Griethuysen was named best actor in a resident play for the Studio Theater’s “The Steward of Christendom.” Top actress was S. Epatha Merkerson for the Studio Theater’s “The Old Settler.”

The judges selected “Ragtime” as the best non-resident production, and handed the Royal Shakespeare Company several awards in the non-resident category.

Other award recipients include:

  • Supporting actor, resident play: J. Fred Shiffman, “Lovers and Executioners,” Arena Stage;

  • Supporting actress, resident play, Rena Cherry Brown, “A Delicate Balance,” The American Century Theater;

  • Supporting performer, resident musical, Sal Mistretta, “The Fix,” Signature Theater;

  • Choreography, resident play or musical: Debbie Allen, “Brothers of the Night,” Kennedy Center;

  • Director, resident musical, Jesse Berger, “Marat/Sade,” Washington Shakespeare Theater Company;

  • Director, resident play, Joe Calarco, “Nijinsky’s Last Dance;”

  • Lead actor, resident play, Ted van Griethuysen, “The Steward of Christendom,” The Studio Theater;

  • Lead actor, resident musical, Stephen Bienskie, “The Fix,” Signature Theater;

  • Lead actress, resident musical, Marva Hicks, “Thunder Knocking on the Door;”

  • Lead actress, resident play, S. Epatha Merkerson, “The Old Settler,” The Studio Theater;

  • Resident musical, “Thunder Knocking on the Door;” resident play, “Nijinsky’s Last Dance.”

  • Nonresident production: “Ragtime,” National Theater;

  • Supporting performer, non-resident production, Guy Henry, “Cymbeline,” The Kennedy Center;

  • Lead actress, non-resident production, Jane Lapotaire, “All is True, or, The Famous History of the Life of King Henry VIII,” Kennedy Center;

  • Lead actor, non-resident production, Alex Jennings, “Hamlet,” Kennedy Center.
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