What to expect at this year’s Helen Hayes Awards

Everything you need to know to prepare for DC theater’s biggest night.

The Helen Hayes Awards are back, baby, live and in person! For the first time since 2019, the DMV theater community will be able to celebrate its achievements with a big old party. This year’s event will look and feel different from past ceremonies, so DCTA sat down with Theatre Washington leadership to get the scoop on what to expect when you don your fancy duds on May 22.

The 2019 Helen Hayes Awards at The Anthem. Photo by Shannon Finney.

When and where?

As in 2018 and 2019, the ceremony will take place at The Anthem in Southwest DC. This year, however, the ceremony will be split into two “acts.” Theatre Washington made the decision to split the show into two parts — both taking place on the same evening — after balancing feedback that recent ceremonies didn’t offer enough time to socialize with a determination to honor each nominee. “We are presenting 42 important awards and we want to give time to the nominees,” says Theatre Washington CEO Amy Austin. “We thought about options like splitting it into two nights or giving out some awards before the ceremony, but we didn’t want to leave anyone out on the one night when we’re together.”

Doors open and drinks will be served starting at 4:30 pm. This year’s celebration will divide the awards presentations into two acts with an approximately 30-minute break to give people time to socialize. A DJ then comes in for an after-party for all guests on The Anthem’s first floor, so bring your dancing shoes and prepare for a great night.

Winner, winner, you get dinner

One big difference in this year’s ceremony is the inclusion of a sit-down dinner (think Golden Globes–style tables) served during “Act One” for nominees, theaters, and paid guests. A reservation in this section goes for a whopping $325, but every individual award nominee (all 220 of them) received one complimentary reservation. In addition to this year’s nominees, expect to see theater supporters and local dignitaries at these tables.

A second section of first-floor seating has been set aside for all ensemble nominees (each of whom received one complimentary ticket), Helen Hayes judges, and other invited guests. A buffet dinner will be served in this section during “Act One” with drinks available from a cashless cash bar all night. Ensemble nominees each receive one complimentary drink ticket and can invite guests to join them in this section for $65.

Finally, general admission tickets are available for $65. Similar to years past, these seats will be in the balcony section. Individuals affiliated with the region’s various theaters are encouraged to gather in groups to cheer on their theater’s nominees. Complimentary light food and paid food from the Anthem will be available and a cashless cash bar will be open all night.

Tickets to both the catered dinner section and the general admission section are now available through Ticketmaster, the official ticketing partner of The Anthem, or through an affiliated theater sponsorship.

Note that The Anthem does not take cash, so anyone planning to buy drinks or food should bring a credit or debit card.

Lights, camera, action!

Here’s a list of the DMV notables putting together this year’s Helen Hayes Awards:

  • Naomi Jacobson, Erika Rose, and Holly Twyford, whom Austin calls “three of the grand dames of DC theater,” will host “Act One.”
  • Christopher Michael Richardson, the DC performer and director who made headlines last year for understudying the role of Usher in Woolly Mammoth’s production of A Strange Loop, will host “Act Two.”
  • Michael Urie and Ryan Spahn, the real-life couple who appeared together in Jane Anger at Shakespeare Theatre Company this season, will appear as special guests. “We’re excited about our guests and the fun they will bring,” Austin says, noting that Urie, a frequent face on DC stages, is a previous Drama Desk Awards host. Urie will be in DC during May for the run of Spamalot! at the Kennedy Center.
  • Will Gartshore and Holly Twyford will co-direct the event. “They have been working hard on a script, performances, and how everything will be presented,” Theatre Washington’s Liz O’Meara-Goldberg shared. “A lot of great DC artists are working on the design of the show and performing in it.”
  • Musical wunderkind and multiple Helen Hayes recipient Walter “Bobby” McCoy will music-direct the show. What music can we expect? “An ensemble of performers will do some singing and dancing,” Austin says. “Unlike the Tonys where the shows are all still playing, that is not the case here because all the nominated shows happened in 2022. We bring fresh production numbers to the Awards.”
  • Jan Du Plain is this year’s Awards ceremony chair. She is a sparkling fixture on DC’s social scene, with deep ties to the diplomatic community where she is a longtime leader. “We are thrilled to have Jan because she works every day to raise the visibility of Washington-area theater with organizations and influencers in our region,” Austin says.
  • Angie Gates, the president and CEO of Events DC, is this year’s honorary chair. She was the former general manager at the Warner Theatre and the force behind the DC government’s 202Creates initiative at the Mayor’s Office of Cable Television, Film, Music, and Entertainment. “Angie has a deep commitment to creatives being able to live in the city, as well as making the arts community a more visible force in driving economic development for the city,” Austin says.

The 2023 Helen Hayes Awards will recognize work from 131 eligible productions presented in the 2022 calendar year in 41 categories. Productions under consideration in 2022 included 39 musicals, 97 plays, and 38 world premieres. For a complete list of nominees, click here.

The 2019 Helen Hayes Awards at The Anthem. Photo by Purple PPL Media.

The 2023 Helen Hayes Awards will take place on Monday, May 22, 2023, at The Anthem, 901 Wharf Street SW, Washington, DC 20024. For more information and to order tickets, go online.

COVID Safety: Theatre Washington will follow The Anthem’s mask-optional guidelines.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here