By Julian Oquendo
This article was first published May 19, 2020 in DC Theatre Scene here.
On Monday, May 18, the night when the DC area theatre community would have been celebrating the 2020 Helen Hayes Awards at The Anthem, honoring theatre excellence in area productions for 2019, theatreWashington took to its Facebook page to announce that the celebration will go on as a virtual event.
The move comes amidst a slow and uncertain reopening of the greater Washington area as state governors and mayors propose the reopening of their respective jurisdictions, for which social distancing measures and venue capacity limits remain in place.
“We have reached the decision to move the celebration online as a completely virtual event, foregoing an in-person event in late summer,” theatreWashington wrote on its Facebook page, “and will present the Helen Hayes Awards, open to everyone, at a date to be announced soon.”
DCTS confirmed with Amy Austin, President and CEO of theatreWashington, that the event is coming together now and will take place this summer.
“It is also important to us to preserve the tradition and prestige of the Helen Hayes Awards. We want the virtual ceremony to be joyful–to find beauty, comfort, reflection, and inspiration in each other and in our art,” the Facebook announcement continued.
“We’ve heard great feedback and ideas and we’re in the middle of the deliberative process of re-shaping the event.” Austin confirmed that the show will retain its original co-hosts, Felicia Curry (2018 recipient and 2020 nominee) and Naomi Jacobson (13 time nominee and two-time recipient).
“First and foremost,” the Facebook announcement continued “we are committed to allocating as many resources as possible in direct support to our community as we face the uncertainty ahead.” A signature program for theatreWashington has been its support all theatremakers in need through the Taking Care COVID-19 Emergency Fund.
“While it’s sad that we aren’t able to gather in person, this email felt like an inevitability, and theatreWashington is absolutely making the right call,” Amber Gibson, a nominee in the “Best Ensemble” category, said. “This isn’t a year for us to gather in-person, and their resources are better directed to assisting out of work artists and theaters through the Taking Care fund.”