I’ve asked several theater practitioners here in DC to outline their vision for an event to replace the Helen Hayes Awards. (See the inaugural post in the series here.) The following contribution is from Psalmayene 24.
As someone who has resisted the tempting urge to pull a “Kanye West” during more than one Helen Hayes Awards ceremony, I’ll be the first to admit that, at times, I’ve put excessive stock in awards.
At other times, when I’m in a more grounded and sane frame of mind, I—if you’ll excuse the expression—couldn’t give two shits about awards. I mean, the work has been done, right? Hopefully, it was done to the best of my ability and the vision that was in my mind will be at the core of what is manifested on stage. Whatever good comes after that is gravy.
Furthermore, to quote Denzel Washington (quoting his mother): “Man gives the award, God gives the reward.”
There’s no doubt that creating art is its own prize, but it never hurts to be favorably recognized for your work. In theater, however, that work—as many of us know—is actually performed by a “village” of people. The entirety of that village is often unacknowledged, unnoticed, and/or unsung by the public. This is problematic. This is how we get pop stars and celebrities: we value one human being’s work (and life) over another’s.
The Helen Hayes Awards of my imagination involve recognizing more members of that village. Along with the present categories that celebrate actors, directors, designers, and so on, I’d add several new categories:
- Outstanding Administrative Staff
- Cleanest Theater (this award would go to the maintenance crew)
- Outstanding Education Department
- Outstanding Ushers
- Best Bang for your Buck (given to the theater with the best productions for the cheapest ticket prices)
- Outstanding Marketing
- Outstanding Casting Director
- The Esprit De Corps Award (for the theater with the best morale)
- Most Diverse Theater
- Most Daring Season
- Outstanding Stage Manager
- Outstanding Backstage Crew
- Outstanding Board
- Outstanding Artistic Director and Executive Director
- Most Engaged Audience
I’m certain there are other worthy categories that celebrate the scope of the village that also deserve to be included; please add them in your mind.
This is the new Helen Hayes Awards that I’d love to see. Maybe, one day, some of these categories will see the light of day.