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Professional or Amateur - Local Theaters Earn Recognition

Nominations for Helen Hayes and WATCH Awards Announced

Area professional theaters learned of their works’ nominations for the coveted Helen Hayes Award for outstanding work on professional stages throughout the region on Monday night while the community theaters learned of the nominations for the Washington Area Theatre Community Honors (WATCH) Awards last week. Put together, work at 10 companies from Arlington and Alexandria received nominations.

With professional companies performing at many different venues, it is not always easy to tabulate how the work in one area fared. For example, while Arena Stage which performs both in Crystal City and in Washington, drew 10 nominations, only three of them were for work in Crystal City. However, they were in big categories: their production of the drama "The Quality of Life" was nominated for Outstanding Play, Outstanding Direction and outstanding Ensemble in a Play.

Similarly, Arlington-based Keegan Theatre received five nominations but they were all for a show performed in Washington. "Rent" was nominated for the Outstanding Musical and its directors Mark A. Rhea and Susan Marie Rhea, its musical director Aaron Broderick and actor Parker Drown who played "Angel" were also nominated.

Another company performing on both sides of the Potomac is Synetic Theatre, and again this year, they scored a host of nominations including three for choreographer Irina Tsikurishvili who continues her domination of that category having been nominated every year for the past dozen years, winning the award seven times. Her director/husband Paata Tsikurishvili, was nominated again this year as well. Resident designer Anastasia Ryurikov Simes also had multiple nominations in the costume design category. All together, the company drew 13 nominations including Outstanding Play for their wordless but charming "A Midsummer Night’s Dream."

No such confusion is involved when it comes to the work at MetroStage in Alexandria which received seven nominations, six of which were for the musical "Cool Papa’s Party" including one for Thomas W. Jones II who directed it and one for Maurice Hines who handled choreography. "Heroes," a touching three-character drama with Ralph Cosham, John Dow and Michael Tolaydo, was nominated for Outstanding Ensemble in a play.

Arlington’s Signature Theatre which won last year's Tony Award for Outstanding Regional Theatre had fewer nominations for the Helen Hayes award this year than it has in some years past. Among their eight nominations were nods in the direction of a number of performers including four for "Show Boat," Harry A. Winter, Will Gartshore, Kimberly Schraf and Delores King Williams, as well as a nomination for the entire ensemble. Both John Dosset and Ashley Robinson were nominated for "Giant" and Holly Twyford drew three nominations at three different theaters including one for her work in Signature’s "The Little Dog Laughed."

We have a robust community theater scene as well. The Washington Area Theatre Community Honors organization presents its WATCH Awards each year for exceptional work in as many as 30 theater companies — five of which are in Arlington and Alexandria. All five of them received at least one nomination for work in 2009.

Drawing the most nominations among the five was the Little Theatre of Alexandria where work on seven different shows was nominated. Top of the list was the Little Theatre of Alexandria with 27 nominations for work on seven different shows. The play about Oscar Wilde’s prosecution for "Gross Indecency" had nine nominations including Outstanding Play and a nomination for the director, Frank D. Shutts II. "It Runs in the Family" was also nominated for Outstanding Play and its director Roland Branford Gomez received one as well. In all, it drew six nominations. Three of LTA’s productions had three nominations each, "The Foreigner," "Leading Ladies" and "Art of Murder" while "Gypsy" had two and "Greater Tuna" had one.

The Arlington Players productions garnered 18 nominations with by far the majority going to their production of "Follies" which will compete for awards as the Outstanding Musical as well as Outstanding Direction of a Musical (Christopher Dykton). Their other musical, "Bye Bye Birdie," captured five nominations while "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" drew one.

Dominion Stage’s production of "Glorious!" had two nominations and "Jeffrey" one while two Port City Playhouse production each had one and the Aldersgate Church Community Theatre’s "Inherit the Wind" resulted in a nomination for James Day for Outstanding Cameo in a Play.

The WATCH Awards will be given out at the annual gala ceremony at the Birchmere on March 14. The Helen Hayes Award ceremony will be April 5 at the Warner Theatre in Washington followed by a party at the JW Marriott Hotel half a block away.