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Signature's Assassins Wins Most Helen Hayes Awards

Charter Theatre's "Stories" wins new play award.

It was quite a night for Calarcos at the Helen Hayes Award ceremonies at the Warner Theatre in D.C. on Monday night.

Director Joe Calarco not only saw three of the cast he had directed in Arlington at Signature Theatre in "Assassins" walk away with awards for outstanding Lead Actor, Lead Actress and Supporting Actor in a Resident Musical, he received one himself for Outstanding Direction of a Resident Musical. He also watched his sister, Renee Calarco, win the award for Outstanding New Play for her "Short Order Stories," which he directed for Charter Theatre at Arlington's Theatre on the Run.

The awards, named for the late actress who got her start on the stage in Washington and became known as "The First Lady of The Theatre," are given each year to recognize outstanding work in the professional theater in Washington, Maryland and Virginia. Over 80 professional companies participate in the program and this year twenty five awards were given in 24 categories (there was one tie).

Signature Theatre's "Assassins" garnered more awards than any other production this year. Four other shows had two awards each and a total of 13 companies had at least one award winner this year.

This was the fourth time that Joe Calarco has received a Helen Hayes Award for outstanding direction. All four were for shows at Signature Theatre. Three were for musicals: "Side Show" in 2001, "Urinetown" last year and "Assassins" this year. He won the award for Outstanding Direction of a Play for "Nijinsky's Last Dance" in 1999.

WILL GARTSHORE, who played John Wilkes Booth in "Assassins," won the award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Musical. It was Gartshore's second win in a row. He won the award last year in Calarco's "Urinetown" at Signature.

Gartshore has become a regular at the Arlington theater where he has earned four other nominations for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Musical since his first performance here co-starring in "Floyd Collins" in 2001.

Signature and its co-founder Donna Migliaccio, who won the award for Lead Actress in a Musical this year, first came to prominence with her starring performance in Signature's "Sweeney Todd" back in 1992. She won the same award for that performance as for her work as Sarah Jane Moore in "Assassins" given out this week. In between, she had been nominated eight other times, including once for the earlier production of "Assassins" at Signature Theatre in 1993.

Andy Brownstein received the Outstanding Supporting Actor award for his portrayal of Sam Byck, the would-be assassin who wanted to hijack an airliner and crash it into Richard Nixon's White House.

RENEE CALARCO’s "Short Order Stories" received its world premiere last September in a production by a company that has recently moved its performance space from Washington into Arlington. Charter Theatre specializes in producing only new works. The award she received as part of the Helen Hayes Awards is named for Hayes' husband, the playwright Charles Macarthur.

Arlington-based Synetic Theatre Company also walked away with an award: Irina Tsikurishvili, who has all but dominated the category of choreography for many years, won again for her work on Synetic's "Frankenstein," which was performed at the Kennedy Center. She has been nominated every year since 1999 and was nominated for three different productions this year. This is her fourth win.

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