Arena Stage and the Kennedy Center Dominate Helen Hayes Nominations

Four theaters take home more than half of the 156 nods for best local theater

By: Sophie Gilbert

Laurence Fishburne and Phylicia Rashad may have multiple accolades under their belts already (an Oscar nomination, a Tony, and two Emmys in his case, three Emmy nominations and a Tony Award and a nomination in hers), but last night they picked up two more. Each received a Helen Hayes Award nomination for the 2010 Washington theater season: Rashad for her role in Arena Stage’s Every Tongue Confess, Fishburne for Thurgood, his one-man show about Supreme Court justice Thurgood Marshall at the Kennedy Center. (The TV adaptation of Thurgood premiered on HBO last week.)

It was a good night for both venues, which tied for top place with 23 nominations each. Coming in second was Shakespeare Theatre Company with 22, followed by the Folger Shakespeare Theatre, which, despite staging only three productions this season, managed to receive 19 nominations, 10 of which were for last fall’s production of Henry VIII. Arena Stage, the Kennedy Center, Shakespeare Theatre, and the Folger took more than half of the 156 nominations between them, for a grand total of 87.

Expectations were high for Arena’s record-breaking production of Oklahoma!, which picked up ten nominations, including for resident musical, ensemble, director (Molly Smith), lead actress (Eleasha Gamble as Laurie, E. Faye Butler as Aunt Eller), and lead actor (Nicholas Rodriguez as Curly, Cody Williams as Will Parker). But surprisingly, the show was crowded out by Shakespeare Theatre’s production of Candide, which garnered 12 nominations, including for resident musical, director (Mary Zimmerman), ensemble, and lead actor and actress (Geoff Packard as Candide, Lauren Molina as Cunegonde).

If it was a great night for Molly Smith and Michael Kahn, it was less so for David Muse. Studio Theatre managed only four nominations: two for Superior Donuts, one for Circle Mirror Transformation, one for American Buffalo. And two notable Washington theaters, Round House Theatre and Keegan Theatre, didn’t receive any nominations. Arlington’s Signature Theatre picked up ten for Chess, Sunset Boulevard, and Sycamore Trees, and Woolly Mammoth scored nine, eight of which were for the theater’s staging of Clybourne Park (which is returning for a summer run). DC’s Theater J got six nominations, including three for lead actress: Lise Bruneau and Sarah Marshall for Mikveh and Erika Rose for In Darfur.

As usual, Arlington’s Synetic Theater scored big, with 14 nominations for husband-and-wife duo Paata and Irina Tsikurishvilli. It was also a promising night for younger audiences, with new-play or musical nominations going to three children’s plays: Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Musical and Snow White, Rose Red (and Fred) at the Kennedy Center and Pirates! A Boy at Sea at Bethesda’s Imagination Stage.

The Helen Hayes Awards are scheduled for April 25. For a full list of nominations, click here.

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