In anticipation of the 24th Helen Hayes Awards on April 28, four special awards were announced April 11.
These awards — as well as awards to theatre artists being recognized for excellence in 24 categories — will be presented at the historic Warner Theatre in Washington, DC. The Helen Hayes Awards, honoring excellence in DC-area professional theatre, are named for the stage and screen star who was born in Washington, DC, and did her first acting there.
The 2008 special Helen Hayes awards and recipients are:
The Helen Hayes Tribute, presented to preeminent British classical actor and director Sir Derek Jacobi in recognition of his illustrious career on stage and screen for more than 50 years. The Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Non-Resident Production was given to Jacobi in 1985 for Cyrano de Bergerac and again in 1988 for Breaking the Code. The Helen Hayes Tribute is sponsored by Washington philanthropists Gilbert and Jaylee Mead "to honor outstanding professionals who have enriched our lives and made a profound and lasting contribution to the theatre."
The Washington Post Award for Innovative Leadership in the Theatre Community, presented to the alliance of Arena Stage, the Crystal City BID, Vornado/Charles E. Smith, Marriott and Arlington County Economic Development. "While undergoing major renovations, Arena Stage, Washington's largest not-for-profit producing theatre, has temporarily moved to Crystal City in Arlington County, VA. This was only possible thanks to the arts, businesses, and community working together to create a vibrant urban destination." The Washington Post Award is meant "to honor individuals and organizations leading the way in fostering Washington theatre."
The first John Aniello Award for Outstanding Emerging Theatre Company, to Taffety Punk Theatre Company. Since their debut in 2004, Taffety Punk has "impressed Washington audiences with their unwavering commitment to establish a dynamic ensemble of actors, dancers, and musicians who ignite a public passion for theatre by making the classical and the contemporary exciting, meaningful, and affordable." Established "in memory of John Aniello, a devoted champion of young, promising talent and an avid theatregoer since 1960…The John Aniello Award recognizes and encourages the efforts of companies who are just getting started yet have produced a body of work that is new, daring, and exciting."
The Governor's Award, to Bob Davis and Henry Schalizki in recognition of their long-time roles as dedicated audience members for almost 50 years. "In that time, they have rarely missed an opening night and have been cheering on Washington theatre each in their own way — Bob through his loved WGMS-FM broadcasts which ended with his signature send-off, 'See it!,' and Henry as a passionate theatregoer who encouraged others to attend and appreciate the work on the stage." This is only the third time the Governor's Award has been granted. The first went to Arena Stage founder Zelda Fichandler and the second to theatre critic Roger Meersman. For more information visit www.helenhayes.org.