In Their Own Words: Helen Hayes Nominees React to 2018 Nomination News

The 2018 Helen Hayes Awards nominations were announced last night at a festive and familial reception from Washington, D.C.’s National Theatre. As the night began, aspiring nominees, Helen Hayes judges, and theater professionals milled around the Helen Hayes Gallery of the National Theatre for an hour of hors-d’oeuvres and camaraderie.

theatreWashington President Amy Austin speaking at the 2018 Helen Hayes Nomination Ceremony. Photo by Nicole Hertvik.
theatreWashington President Amy Austin speaking at the 2018 Helen Hayes Nomination Ceremony. Photo by Nicole Hertvik.

TheatreWashington President Amy Austin then got the announcements underway with a speech that summarized the award nominating process and focused on theatreWashington’s goal of recognizing the collective strength of theater work in the Washington, DC area.

Austin detailed the exhaustive process that led to this moment. 210 productions from 64 area theaters were analyzed by 41 judges. She broke these numbers down further – 56 were musicals, 154 were plays, 15 were productions for young audiences, and 42 were world premieres, a fact that was greeted with applause.

A full list of the nominees can be found below, but DC Theater Arts thought it would be fun to hear from the nominees directly: What were they doing when they heard they were nominated and how does it feel to be newly-minted Helen Hayes Award nominee?

In their own words…

Frank Britton: Nominee, Robert Prosky Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Play – Helen
Jesus Hopped the A Train at 1st Stage:

“I was home in bed all day having been stricken with a bug the night before, and I was dozing off when a friend sent me a text. That was my first notification of the nomination. As ill as I was, I suddenly felt much better for the next five hours. I am so honored, humbled, grateful, and thankful. Shout-out to 1st Stage and my JESUS HOPPED THE ‘A’ TRAIN family.”



Deb Kim Sivigny, Three-time Nominee, Outstanding Costume Design – Helen, 1 and Outstanding Set Design – Helen, 2
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom 1st Stage (Costume Design)
Forgotten Kingdoms Rorschach Theatre (Set Design)
Hello, My Name Is… The Welders (Set Design, co-nominated with Patti Kalil)

“As to where I was, I was standing in the crowd [at the National Theatre] representing The Welders! I think upon hearing fellow nominee Julie Garner’s name get announced [for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Play – Helen for Hello, My Name Is…/The Welders] I went into shock. Our little show that could was noticed! Then when I heard my own name three more times I was so surprised I phased out for a moment. I am totally elated to get the recognition alongside artists I admire very much (including my own husband Randy Baker!) My social media and phone is full of “finally”s and “yays!” For the first time in seventeen years it’s nice to see my own name.”


Walter “Bobby” McCoy, Three-time Nominee, Outstanding Musical Direction – Helen
Blues in the Night, Creative Cauldron
In the Heights, GALA Hispanic Theatre
The Wild Party, Constellation Theatre Company

“I was on my way home from Aida Auditions for Constellation Theatre. I was in the car when my buddy texted me that I had nominated 3 times in the Category! I had no words, all I could do was pull my car over and scream at the top of my lungs!”




Luis Salgado, Two-time Nominee
Outstanding Choreography in a Musical – Helen, In the Heights, GALA Hispanic Theatre
Outstanding Direction in a Musical – Helen, In the Heights, GALA Hispanic Theatre

Director and Choreographer Luis Salgado. Photo courtesy of Salgado Productions. “I was playing with my son after coming home from rehearsals for Ragtime. We were dancing in the living room and I got a text saying our Music Director, Walter Bobby Mccoy had been nominated. Then I got another from our costume designer who was also nominated. In the following 30 minutes, we had gotten 18 nominations… My heart was excited and grateful as the TEAM who worked so hard with so much love and dedication had been celebrated as a community and that was the best gift I could have asked for.

Being nominated as director/choreographer for this GALA production while celebrating who we are and having taken risks as a community of artists doing it in our language was and IS an incredible blessing.

After all that, I went back to my son, put the music even louder and danced with him some more… ART makes us better humans! And that’s what it’s all about…”


Vaughn Ryan Midder: Nominee, Outstanding Lead Actor in a Musical – Helen
In the Heights, GALA Hispanic Theatre

“I was actually AT the announcements! I was asked to present the nominees for one of the categories, so naturally, I assumed that meant no nomination and I could enjoy the evening carefree………wrong! Nevertheless, I was getting SO overwhelmed with the flood of nominations my fellow cast and creatives were receiving, that I almost didn’t hear my name called. Fortunately, before presenting the next nominees I was introduced as past winner and CURRENT nominee, Vaughn Ryan Midder…so I knew it was real, haha!”


Beth Amman, Managing Director of Monumental Theatre Company, one of two companies eligible for the John Aniello Award for Outstanding Emerging Theatre Company:

“I was at home working on some things for our upcoming shows, Infinite Future and Brooklyn. I had one tab open on my browser following #hha2018, one with DC Metro Theatre Arts open, and one with Theatre Washington’s page. We knew that we would be included in tonight’s announcement regarding John Aniello, so I was waiting patiently for the news to become public. While we’ve known for a little while now, there was something different about seeing it on the screen and having everyone know. It makes me feel incredibly proud of the work we’ve put in over the past few years, and overwhelmingly grateful to those who have helped us along the way. I’m so excited to celebrate an amazing year of theatre with our community at this year’s awards. I also can’t wait for the after party. :)”


Felicia Curry, Two-time Nominee
– Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Play – Hayes, Nina Simone: Four Women, Arena Stage
– Outstanding Lead Actress in a Play – Helen, Lela & Co, Factory 449

“I was at the nomination announcement sipping punch with my great friend, [Factory 449 Artistic Director] Rick Hammerly. Shock. I am still in shock. There were a lot of amazing performances this year and to be singled out twice is truly an honor. I did get teary when they announced Rick’s Best Director nomination. He created something incredibly special with Lela & Co., and I am thrilled his work, and the whole production is being recognized.”



Rick Hammerly, Nominee, Outstanding Direction in a Play – Helen
Lela & Co., Factory 449

“I was actually in attendance for the HHA nominations with my partner-in-crime, Ms. Felicia Curry. I had just kicked over my honey-vodka-punch concoction, which I had hidden under my chair in a desperate attempt to act like I didn’t need it, when they started reading the directing nominations.

It was both exciting and gratifying to hear my name included with the other nominated directors. It has taken quite a bit of work to make the leap from the acting categories to the directing category, so this nomination means quite a lot to me. Having Dame Curry at my side, and receiving 3 more nominations for Factory 449’s production of LELA & CO., a show in which we believed so fully, made for a surprisingly emotional evening. Then that greedy Curry character has to go and snag a SECOND nomination! Selfish! Talented…but selfish.”


Alessandra Baldacchino, Outstanding Performer – Visiting Production
Fun Home, The National Theatre

“I had just arrived home from middle school after talking to my math teacher. When I got home my mom ran up to me and told me the great news. “What?!? That’s so exciting!!!” I said, while I was jumping up and down with joy! I am very excited and grateful for the nomination. I can’t wait for the award ceremony and look forward to meeting all the other nominees!”



Rebecca Medrano – Executive Director GALA Hispanic Theatre
(GALA received 18 nominations for In the Heights and 1 nomination for Don Juan Tenorio)

“I was at the Theatre Washington gathering at the National Theater for the announcements. I was overcome with emotion when I heard them read ALL of the nominations we got for In The Heights. This was a very special show for GALA and for these times since for us the cast and creative team represents what America REALLY looks like today – a country of immigrants: brown, black, white, diverse – from many different countries and backgrounds.”


Tracy Lynn Oliviera, Nominee, Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Musical – Hayes
A Little Night Music, Signature Theatre

“I never pay attention to when the nominations are going to be announced, so I was totally confused when I got out of the class I was teaching and my phone had blown up!”




Gregory J. Watkins, Nominee, Outstanding Ensemble in a Musical – Helen
The Gospel at Colonus, WSC Avant Bard

“Believe it or not, I was on a ten-minute break in rehearsal – for The Gospel at Colonus – when I got the news. In fact, my castmates and I received the news together. Talk about an overwhelmingly surreal moment! Tom Prewiit, our show’s producer and the Artistic Director of WSC Avant Bard stormed into the room, beaming with such esteemed pride and joy as he announced to us that we had been nominated for Best Ensemble in a Musical. The show was the biggest hit of last season for WSC Avant Bard so it’s back, by popular demand. For me, receiving this nomination means the world because my journey as an artist has been eclectic yet intrinsic. I’ve been faithfully building my resume and sharpening my craft so that I not only have the tools to perform but I also have something of substance to say to the world. I’ve never received a Helen Hayes award or nomination. But ever since I’ve made a commitment to follow this dream and ride it until the wheels literally fall off, I’ve been on a serious grind – auditioning and booking show after show. I am tremendously humbled to see the success paying off in this way. We ought not learn the craft for the expectation of any accolade, but every now and then it is a blessing to be acknowledged and celebrated for your work and your contribution(s). For this award, I celebrate our show’s phenomenal cast and crew, and I thank the Helen Hayes judges for such a high honor.


Caroline Bowman, Outstanding Lead Actress in a Musical – Helen
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Toby’s Dinner Theater

“I just started performing in Kinky Boots on Broadway, so when I found out I was actually in the middle of the show! Nick Lehan, one of my best friends and Helen Hayes award-winner from last year, texted me “Congratulations!” I had no idea what he was congratulating me for so he quickly filled me in! It is an honor to be nominated and it was a dream to be a part of this production at Toby’s Dinner Theatre, a theatre I cherish with all my heart.”



Michael Anthony Williams, Nominee, Robert Prosky Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Play – Helen  
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, 1st Stage

“What I was doing when I heard? I was preparing for a huge audition for a new pilot for Fox. I traveled to New York this morning and head into FOX in one hour. I felt so much joy for the cast and production team! On many levels, this show was an amazing journey.”




Scheherazade Quiroga, Nominee, Best Supporting Actress in a Musical – Helen
In the Heights, GALA Hispanic Theatre

“I was in my kitchen, getting ready to prep dinner when Bobby McCoy, our Music Director for In The Heights, sent a link to the nominations through a group chat. His comment was: “Guys… Wow….”

I clicked immediately and… GUYS! WOW indeed! It was such a delight to see so many names from our family listed, being honored by Theatre Washington! In my case, seeing my name listed next to Gabriella’s (who played Carla to my Daniela in the show) was the HIGHLIGHT of my night. She was the first person I called! Wished I could say she was the first person I spoke with, but all I got was her voice mail… Ha!

I am thankful beyond words to be apart of the In The Heights family in GALA, and so proud that this initial Spanish incarnation had such a lovely welcome by the DC community. It’s truly a Carnaval of happiness (and since Carnaval is celebrated next week, what can be more perfect?) I can hardly wait to have all the team together again, and represent Venezuela at the awards in May!


Elizabeth Jenkins McFadden, Nominee, Outstanding Set Design – Helen
In the Heights, GALA Hispanic Theatre

“I’m out of town; my mom is recovering from a stroke and I’m taking care of her for a bit — I didn’t even remember that the nominations were coming out. I am OVER THE MOON that this production has received such recognition; it was an enormous and bold undertaking for GALA and I couldn’t be happier to see that effort being acknowledged! And the whole team poured their lifeblood into this show… the wave of nominations is truly gratifying.”



Gabriella Pérez, Nominee, Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Musical – Helen
In the Heights, GALA Hispanic Theatre

“Our cast is still very close and checks in on each other regularly on a group chat. I saw my phone light up and buzz non-stop… so I picked it up and saw dozens of texts from the cast, tags on social media, and a voicemail from my show (and real life) bestie (who is nominated for Daniela). I put down my work and found out not only did I get nominated, but we had SO MANY! I was beaming.

Awards and recognitions are not something on my radar, so it was totally unexpected and a wonderful surprise. I was and am so incredibly proud of our cast, creative team, and crew of this show: we took a huge risk, putting our raw hearts onstage every single night. We became a family. I couldn’t be prouder of my friends and this family we grew and cared for together.”

Jeremy Scott Blaustein, Nominee, Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Musical – Helen
Beauty and the Beast, Toby’s Dinner Theatre

“I was in the checkout line at Wegman’s when I got the news; I almost hugged the cashier! It may sound cliché, but this nomination means a great deal to me. I grew up in this area, and I’ve always held the Helen Hayes Awards in very high esteem. Even to be considered has proved to be a lovely reminder for me to never stop trying.”



The 2018 Helen Hayes Awards, presented by theatreWashington will take place on Monday, May 14th, 2018. Event location, hosts and ticket information will be forthcoming.

For the full list of Helen Hayes Award Nominees, click here.

(All photos used in prior DC Theater Arts articles or courtesy of the artist. Frank Britton Photo by C. Stanley Photography, Alessandra Baldachino photo by Laura Luc Photography) 


  1. Congrats to all the nominees! Would have been nice to hear from one of the 7 nominated folks from Keegan’s production of Parade though.


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