Special Awards going to Kevin Spacey and Atlas theatre visionaries Jane Lang and Paul Sprenger
Washington theatre will receive the highest honors for achievement at the 28th Helen Hayes Awards on Monday, April 23, 2012 at the Warner Theatre. The Awards recognizes 153 nominated artists, productions and ensembles, along with three special awards that pay tribute to those who have made extraordinary contributions to the theatre.
The prestigious Helen Hayes Tribute will be presented to Oscar and Tony Award winning actor and arts advocate Kevin Spacey for not only his versatile and prolific work on both stage and screen – but also for the indelible impact he makes on the world of theatre through his vision and advocacy for arts funding.
The Helen Hayes Tribute, sponsored by Jaylee Mead, annually recognizes theatre artists who exemplify excellence and an exceptional commitment to their craft. Past honorees included Anne Jackson and Eli Wallach, Derek Jacobi, James Earl Jones, Mary Martin, Angela Lansbury, Jason Robards, Stephen Sondheim, Chita Rivera, Lynn Redgrave, August Wilson and, of course, Helen Hayes.
Jane Lang and Paul Sprenger will receive The Washington Post Award for Innovative Leadership in the Theatre Community. The couple demonstrated vision and commitment by leading the effort to restore the long-abandoned Atlas movie theatre on H Street in Northeast Washington, DC. The effort fulfilled a cultural need in a way that not only revitalized a theatre, but a neighborhood. As leaders of the Sprenger Lang Foundation, they spearheaded a $24 million capital campaign to develop the Atlas, now known officially as the Atlas Performing Arts Center. Today, the Atlas is home to a diverse range of arts programming and its H Street, NE neighborhood is a thriving, vital cultural and social center of the city.
For 26 years, The Washington Post Award has honored the inspired efforts of theatres, directors, local governments, service organization and several remarkable individuals – all with imaginative spirits and deep desires to foster Washington theatre. Previous recipients of The Washington Post Award include the Ford’s Theatre Society, arts activist Andy Shallal, Helen Hayes Awards Founder Bonnie Nelson Schwartz, the alliance of Arena Stage, Crystal City BID, Vornado/Charles E. Smith, Marriott and Arlington County Economic Development.
Faction of Fools Theatre Company will receive the John Aniello Award – named in memory of an extraordinary man who was a devoted champion of young, promising talent – and which recognizes emerging theatre companies who have produced a body of work that is groundbreaking and compelling. The Faction of Fools Theatre Company practices the fine art of Commedia dell’Arte-a theatre style from the 16th century. In doing so, the company charts new artistic ground by re-imagining and re-interpreting work that is centuries old for modern audiences. Previous recipients are 1stStage, Constellation Theatre Company, Factory 449: a theatre collective, No Rules Theatre Company, and Taffety Punk.
“The Helen Hayes Awards is an exciting night in Washington. Outstanding talent in American theatre – both veterans and new talents – come together and show the world that Washington is, indeed, one of the best theatre towns in the world,” said Victor Shargai, Chairman of the theatreWashington Board of Directors. “And, it is our special honor to recognize Kevin Spacey, Jane Lang and Paul Sprenger, and Faction of Fools – alongside Washington’s wonderful theatres”
“By shining a light on the artistry on Washington stages, The Helen Hayes Awards has helped cultivate our region into a first class theatre town,” said Linda Levy Grossman, President and CEO of theatreWashington. “As a result, thousands of theatre artists and craftsman make Washington their home, contributing in every way to the vitality of our community.
Honoring the legacy of native Washingtonian and First Lady of American Theatre, Helen Hayes, for 27 years her namesake Awards have recognized excellence in the Washington professional theatre. The 28th Helen Hayes Awards marks the first Awards celebration presented by theatreWashington, the organization’s new name. theatreWashington is the only organization that promotes, supports, and represents Washington area theatres, artists, and diverse audiences of all ages. The rebranding reflects theatreWashington’s mission of raising awareness of Washington theatre and lifting the profile of the Washington region as a top cultural destination.
With nearly 80 professional theatre companies, Greater Washington is second only to New York for the number of productions produced each year. During the 2011 season, 53 theatres produced 192 productions that met eligibility requirements in the January 1 – December 31 judging cycle. From these shows, 153 artists, ensembles and productions from 26 theatres were nominated for the Helen Hayes Awards.
The 28th Helen Hayes Awards is held at the Warner Theatre, immediately followed by the Ovation Gala at the JW Marriott Hotel. Tickets are available at www.theatrewashington.org.