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Arlington Theaters Capture Helen Hayes Nominations

Signature Theater wins 15 nominations, Open Circle also scores.

The quality of professional theater in Arlington continues to draw recognition in the annual Helen Hayes Award process which recognizes outstanding work by performers, directors, designers, authors and theater companies throughout the region.

On a snowy Monday night, Feb. 28, the theater community could not gather in person as they usually do at a reception at theCanadian Embassy on Pennsylvania Avenue, but the nominations for this year's awards were announced anyway -- this time by Internet.

Arlington's Signature Theatre, now in its 15th season, added 15 nominations to the 157 it had earned in previous years. Those 15 nominations were more than any other theater in the region received for work they produced. (The Kennedy Center drew eighteen nominations, but thirteen of those were for work in touring productions that played at the Center but weren't produced locally.)

Only one individual drew more than two nominations, and that was John Kalbfleisch, thrice nominated this year for Outstanding Musical Direction on shows at Signature: "Allegro," "Elegies: A Song Cycle" and "The Highest Yellow."

Among the eight people who drew two nominations each were Signature's artistic director Eric Schaeffer, nominated for Outstanding Direction of a Musical for both "Allegro" and "One Red Flower" at Signature, Tracy Lynn Olivera, who was nominated Outstanding Supporting Actress in both Signature's "Allegro" and "Carousel" at Maryland's Olney Theatre Center, and Irina Tsikurishvili of the Shirlington-based Synetic/Classika Theatre for her choreography for "The Crackpots" and "The Master and Margarita." That last production also earned a nomination for Outstanding Sound Design for her husband Paata Tsikurishvili and Irakli Kavsadze.

OVERALL, SIGNATURE Theatre drew nominations for work on "Allegro" (lead actor Will Gartshore, supporting actor Harry A. Winter, costume designer Gregg Barnes, as well as Kalbfleisch, Schaeffer and Olivera, and a nomination for Outstanding Musical), "Elegies: A Song Cycle" (lead actress Sherri L. Edelen, Kalbfleisch and a nomination for Outstanding Musical), "One Red Flower" (Schaeffer and a nomination for Outstanding Musical) and "The Highest Yellow" (lead actors Jason Danieley and Marc Kudisch, as well as Kalbfleisch).

The Open Circle Theatre, a company which specializes in producing works utilizing artists with disabilities, scored big with their only production of the year, a stunning production of the Andrew Lloyd-Webber/Tim Rice rock musical "Jesus Christ Superstar" at the Clark Street Playhouse. The production was nominated for Outstanding Musical while its director, Suzanne Richard, and two of the actors were nominated as well. Rob McQuay, who played Jesus from his wheel chair was nominated for Outstanding Lead Actor while Rich Foucheux who played Pontius Pilot as if he were a television talk show host was nominated for Outstanding Supporting Actor.

Tribute Productions also drew a nomination for its only production of the year. "Beyond Glory" played at the two hundred-seat theater in The Women in Military Service for America Memorial at the entrance to Arlington National Cemetery. It was a one-man show starring Stephen Lang, who also wrote and directed the piece based on a book of portraits of Medal of Honor winners.

Lang was nominated for Outstanding Lead Actor.

Elsewhere in Northern Virginia, the people at MetroStage in Alexandria can celebrate three nominations: one for actress Deb Filler who starred in "Filler Up!" and two for performers Bernardine Mitchell and William Hubbard who appeared in "Mahalia, A Gospel Musical."

The awards will be handed out at a gala ceremony to be held at the Warner Theatre in Washington on May 9, which will be followed by what the Helen Hayes Awards organization calls "Washington's largest cast party" at the JW Marriott Hotel. This is different than recent years, when both the award ceremony and the following party were held at the Kennedy Center.

Brad Hathaway has covered theater in Virginia, Washington and Maryland, as well as Broadway, and edits Potomac Stages, a website covering theater in the region (www.PotomacStages.com). He can be reached at Brad@PotomacStages.com.