Woolly Tops List of Hayes Nominees

Synetic's "Macbeth" earned 11 nominations, including a leading actress nod for Irina Tsikurishvili, right. (By Stan Barouh -- Synetic Theater)
By Jane Horwitz
Special to The Washington Post
Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company and Signature Theatre lead the field for Helen Hayes Awards nominations with 23 and 21, respectively, it was announced last night at the National Theatre's Helen Hayes Gallery.

Arena Stage and Synetic Theater each had 16 nominations for a year in which smaller companies, some of them doing new or avant-garde work, impressed the judges more than usual. When the Shakespeare Theatre Company's "Hamlet" garners no nominations while Synetic's revival of its wordless version, "Hamlet . . . the rest is silence," gets four, you've got an interesting Year at the Hayes.

And little Synetic can also boast the only double-digit array of nominations for a single show: Its wordless, movement-based "Macbeth" got 11 nods.

Winners of the 24th annual Helen Hayes Awards, which recognize achievements in Washington theater in 2007, will be announced April 28 at a Warner Theatre gala.

Among the leaders for "resident" (locally produced as opposed to touring) plays were "Dead Man's Cell Phone," Sarah Ruhl's meditation on life, the afterlife, and good and evil, and Bruce Norris's spoof of modern American imperialism in "The Unmentionables," both at Woolly Mammoth. Each received seven nominations. Studio Theatre's "Souvenir: A Fantasia on the Life of Florence Foster Jenkins" had six.

Among the leading resident musicals were Ford's Theatre's "Meet John Doe" (seven nominations) and Arena's "The Women of Brewster Place" (six); both were world premieres. Leading locally produced musicals were Signature's "The Witches of Eastwick" and Studio Theatre 2ndStage's "Reefer Madness: The Musical," with six nods each.

Nominees for outstanding resident play are "Dead Man's Cell Phone" and "The Unmentionables" at Woolly; Synetic's "Hamlet . . . the rest is silence" and "Macbeth"; Studio's "Souvenir: A Fantasia on the Life of Florence Foster Jenkins"; Shakespeare Theatre's "The Taming of the Shrew"; and Signature's "The Word Begins," a world premiere rap piece by Steve Connell and Sekou (tha Misfit).

Outstanding resident musical nominees are Signature's "Into the Woods" and "The Witches of Eastwick"; Ford's Theatre's "Meet John Doe"; Arena's "The Women of Brewster Place"; Studio Theatre 2ndStage's "Reefer Madness: The Musical"; and Toby's Dinner Theatre's "Titanic: The Musical."

World premieres that made the shortlist for the Charles MacArthur Award for outstanding new play or musical (named for Helen Hayes's writer husband) are Mois┬┐s Kaufman's "33 Variations"; Sarah Ruhl's "Dead Man's Cell Phone"; Andrew Gerle and Eddie Sugarman's "Meet John Doe"; Motti Lerner's "Pangs of the Messiah"; Dana Yeaton's "Redshirts"; and "The Word Begins."

Directors competing against themselves include Rebecca Bayla Taichman for her work on Woolly's "Dead Man's Cell Phone" and Shakespeare Theatre's "Taming of the Shrew"; Eric Schaeffer for Ford's Theatre's "Meet John Doe" and Signature's "Witches of Eastwick"; and Paata Tsikurishvili for Synetic's "Hamlet . . . the rest is silence" and "Macbeth." His wife, Irina, earned three choreography nominations, for the two aforementioned Synetic shows and for its "Fall of the House of Usher." She was also nominated in the lead actress category for her role as Lady Macbeth.

Among touring shows that came to town, "My Fair Lady" at the Kennedy Center had five nominations. "Doubt: A Parable" at the National Theatre also received five, among them nods for Cherry Jones and Chris McGarry.

The shows nominated as outstanding non-resident production are "Avenue Q" (National Theatre), "Doubt" (National Theatre), "Emergence-See!" (Arena Stage), "My Fair Lady" (Kennedy Center) and "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" (Kennedy Center).

Sixty-three Helen Hayes judges attended 189 shows presented by 51 theater companies last year. Each show is seen by eight judges, who fill out ballots immediately after seeing a show. Nominees and eventual winners are computed on a point system from these ballots. To be eligible, theater companies must be professional (paying actors, designers and crew, though the actors don't have to be members of Equity) and present at least 16 performances of any show being judged.

© 2008 The Washington Post Company