According to a Sept. 26 announcement, "Building on nearly three decades of credibility, commitment, and the service that was brought to Washington area theatres by The Helen Hayes Awards, theatreWashington will continue to promote, represent, and support Washington area theatres, artists, and audiences of all ages."
In addition to the new name (the capitalization of which will give copy editors everywhere a workout), the transition "offers new governance and staffing structures and new programming, the centerpiece of which is an interactive new website that includes exclusive content and a user-generated 'Find a Show' function designed to streamline the theatre decision-making process."
"The core of our mission is to get people to realize those theatrical jewels that are the heart of our region," Victor Shargai, president of the theatreWashington board of directors, said in a statement. "Our theatre companies have been major forces in this evolution and their response has been inspirational."
Founded in 1984, the Washington Theatre Awards Society "recognized and encouraged excellence in professional theatre in the Washington area through the presentation of the Helen Hayes Awards." At the time, there were only ten producing theatres in Washington. Now, nearly 30 years later, there are 80 professional theatres in the region (which includes DC, Maryland and parts of Virginia). The blossoming of theatre in the area has been fertilized by the programs of The Helen Hayes Awards, "including the organization's advocacy efforts, audience-building and education programs, and the annual Helen Hayes Awards program."
The annual presentation of the Helen Hayes Awards will continue as one of five focus areas of theatreWashington. One of our country's most prestigious cultural events, The Helen Hayes Awards annually honors excellence in professional theatre throughout the Washington metropolitan area. The 2012 Helen Hayes Awards is set for April 23, 2012, at the Warner Theatre, located at 513 13th Street NW, Washington, DC. The new theatreWashington website at theatrewashington.org will roll out in three phases. Phase One is currently being tested by members of the Washington area theatre community and will soon go live. Phases Two and Three will go live before the end of the year.
Phase One of theatrewashington.org will offer a "Find a Show" function, allowing visitors to see the full spectrum of productions playing in area theatres. There is also a filtering system to select productions by different criteria such as genre, age appropriateness, prices range and more.
Additionally, Phase One will also offer unique content about Washington-area theatres, artists and audiences "in the form of profiles on theatre professionals, essays, ten questions for theatre professionals, ten questions for audience members, and features on the theatergoing experience to help audiences overcome perceived barriers to attending the theatre; user generated reviews; interactive professional forums; and image galleries of currently running productions."
Unique content and interactive features will continue to be developed in Phases Two and Three including a searchable database of every actor who has performed on a DC stage in the past two decades.
The new theatreWashington is structured into five integrated departments, each managed by a senior professional to support the current transition and future developments, working directly with president and CEO Linda Levy Grossman. Theatre Services, Communications and Audience Development, theatrewashington.org, Operations, and Development comprise the new organizational composition. The departments will be lead by three new managers and one veteran HHA team member:
Alli Houseworth (director of communications and audience development) comes to theatreWashington after working as the director of marketing and communications at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company. She is the founder of the NYC-based Theatre Development Fund's TKTS Patron Service Program, and holds an MFA in producing and theatre management from Columbia University, where she currently serves as an assistant adjunct professor and teaches Audience Engagement: In Line and Online to theatre producers. A Washington-area native, she was named one of Broadway World's "Top 100 Theatre Tweeters You Must Follow," and often speaks at conferences and convenings about social media and how it can be implemented into an organization's culture.
Manny Strauss (special advisor to the president and managing editor of theatreWashington.org) has been a resident of the Washington area since 1988. From 2003-2007 he co-published Washington Theater Review with Betsy Karmin. He is currently the president of the board of directors for The Inkwell and previously served as a trustee at Round House Theatre, a member of Theater J's Council, and a member of the board of Act Two Performing Arts (now Act Two @ Levine). In addition to his theatre experience, he has been a securities lawyer for more than 25 years, having practiced with global law firms, in large public companies, and at the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Brad Watkins (director of theatre services) graduated from University of Maryland and toured with The Catholic University National Players. He became associate producer for Harlequin Dinner Theatre, helped create the internationally touring Troika Entertainment, freelanced as a marketing and production consultant, and helped launch Phoenix Entertainment. Until recently, he was producing director at Olney Theatre Center. Caris' Peace, his collaboration exploring an actress' journey following brain injury, played at the Flea Theatre in New York City and is currently the subject of a documentary debuting this fall. He is a member of Society of Stage Directors & Choreographers and former judge for The Helen Hayes Awards.
Allison Dreskin (operations manager) has been part of the Helen Hayes Awards team since 2005 and continues in this new leadership capacity. She has served the organization as administrative manager, box office manager, education manager, auction manager and senior program manager. A communications graduate from the University of Maryland, she has considerable experience in systems management. When not managing internal operations, she is the lead vocalist of Cover Me Badd, a popular Baltimore-based band.
A development director will be hired shortly.
For more information, visit theatrewashington.org.