- Helen Hayes Tribute Award winner Tommy Tune (l).
6:18: I arrive, and immediately meet up with WeLoveDC's Patrick Pho for a night of live tweeting, beginning with the Chairman's Reception. We look down from the mezzanine to a nearly-empty red carpet figuring we're on the early side, but walk into a packed ballroom. Theater people are prompt. Oh hey, there's Helen Hayes Tribute Award winner Tommy Tune.
6:37: A chat with actor Derek Thompson (who is also a journalist for the Atlantic), and his co-star from Theater J's The Chosen, Joshua Morgan. Morgan is being honored with the John Aniello Award for best new theater company, for No Rules Theatre. Thompson, whose hair was dyed red for his role in The Chosen, tells me he has cut most of it off, and dyed it back to a dark shade of brown. It's his first Helen Hayes Awards.
6:43: Michael Dove, artistic director of Forum Theater, is a presenter tonight, and he warns me that he's going to try something "different." He and his company are too cool for school, they're about to ditch this reception and go to Old Ebbitt for booze and oysters. It's a Forum tradition.
6:48: Speaking of food, here's what's on the Chairman's Reception menu: salad with cherry vinaigrette, seasonal vegetables, honey BBQ short ribs, pistachio-crusted salmon, mashed potatoes, a variety of sauces. For dessert, fruit tarts and mixed berries in a wine glass.
6:54: Maurice Hines arrives. Because I would make a terrible paparazzo, I took this blurry picture of him hugging someone. Pho tells me that whenever he hears the name Maurice Hines, he thinks Duncan Hines. We stare longingly at the desserts. A crowd begins to gather outside of the Warner.
- Maurice Hines hugs an unidentified woman.
7:01: We find some seats next to Arlington Cable's Rich Massabny, and chat about Twitter, despite Massabny telling me he doesn't own a cell phone.
7:23: The bar is about to close. Everyone rushes the bar. I am handed a cake pop. Cake pops are totally the new cupcakes, aren't they?
7:35: We mosey on over to the Warner, where there's already a huge throng of people. Fashion proclamation: Teal is in this year. Laura Esti Miller, dramaturg for Forum Theatre, asks Michael Dove if he's wearing a teal dress. Massive traffic jam in the lobby. City Paper's Jon Fischer wonders why there's Red Bull at the bar. Yes, it will be that kind of a night.
8:05: Yeah, girl!
Havent seen any exes yet. Too bad, because I look great! #hha11
8:06: Lights down. Time to start. There's a photo montage of all of this year's nominated shows, and everyone screams when their show is on the screen, so it's pretty easy to see where each theater is sitting. I'm right in front of Woolly Mammoth. Audience falls strangely silent when Mary Poppins shows up. The opening number is a West Side Story parody of "Tonight," in which the Sharks and the Jets are replaced by warring factions of theater fans from Maryland and Virginia trying to get to the show. Numerous references to the slowness of Metro and lack of parking in the area. Also, this line: "Virginia's gonna have some class tonight." Oh, ok.
8:16: The first award of the night, which is the aforementioned John Aniello award for the best new theater company. No suspense here, since it was announced at the nominations ceremony. I'm not going to rehash every award in this timeline, I'll just provide the color commentary. The winners are all posted on the Helen Hayes site. Anyway, it's the first of many, many ties tonight. Factory 449's Rick Hammerly went first, before ceding the stage to his (not much) younger co-winners saying, "I'm gonna hand it off to these two 12 year olds from No Rules and go back to my oxygen tent." At which point they proceeded to play rock, paper, scissors to determine who would take the mic, proving him right.
8:23: It is a Helen Hayes tradition that winners must wear something to distinguish themseves from the nominees. This year, it's candy necklaces.
8:25: First speeches of the night come from directors Mary Zimmerman, Howard Shalwitz, and Paata Tsikurishvili. The folks at Woolly congratulate H-dawg. Says Zimmerman: "It was the first musical I ever did, and now it's all I want to do." Candide is headed to Boston next.
8:34: The brothers Manzari do what they do best: Dentistry. No, just kidding, they tap-dance.
8:40: A woman sitting next to me leans over after Parker Esse's win for choreography and says, "The rumor is that Oklahoma is going to take everything."
8:42: Before Colin K. Bills is announced as the winner of the award for best lighting for his work in Synetic's The Master and Margarita, I have already typed his name into a tweet, finger on the trigger button. He's been nominated every year since 2006, and he's won twice prior. He is my most confident prediction. I am right. The folks at Woolly take some ownership over this one, even though it isn't their show.
8:45: A report that the balcony is "Rowdy." "YES WE ARE WOOOOO" responds Pinky Swear Productions.
8:46: Woolly Mammoth's Alli Houseworth awards Most Deafening Applause to the staff of Arena Stage, via Twitter. I note that the Georgian names of Synetic nominees are not only too difficult for the presenters to pronounce, but too long to fit on the screen. That's the case for sound design nominees Irakli Kavsadze and Konstantine Lortkipanidze, nominated for Othello. The winner in that category, Tom Teasely (The Ramanya, Constellation Theatre) makes a fashion statement as he accepts his award by wearing a short-sleeved shirt and a fanny pack.
8:49: Time for the dedication of the Helen Hayes stamp. A representative of the U.S. Postal Service is here, and he reminds us that the mail travels quickly and affordably. The singers return, with another song parody: "That's Why the Lady is a Stamp." They, too, try to sell us on the affordability of snail mail.
8:56: Josh Lamon wins for Outstanding Supporting Performer for his role in Hair, but he's not here to accept the award. That's OK, the guy who accepts it for him has enough hair for the both of them.
8:58: It is noted on Twitter that the evening's chosen hashtag, #hha11, looks like we are all laughing hysterically, or contracting some rare strain of the flu.
9:02: Via the song "Company," from Company, we now take a break to announce the corporate sponsors, with song and dance. KPMG becomes, for the first time, a lyric.
9:04: Michael Dove takes the stage to present, and pulls a James Franco, asking everyone in the audience to hold up their flasks so he can TwitPic it. Here is the result. Those lights sure are bright! Because he does this, Woolly Mammoth's Alli Houseworth loses a $1,000 bet. "Shit," tweets Houseworth.
9:15: Geoff Packard wins for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Resident Musical for Candide. (another tie, with Nicholas Rodriguez for Oklahoma), and he gives one of the most entertaining speeches of the night. Some excerpts: "I'm a twin, so I've been tied all my life." "I'd like to thank the CVS on 7th Street for always being open. And Chop't Salads ... I don't know how they do it!" And then he invited us to his wedding on Aug. 27, if we were willing to pony up $100 for the dinner.
9:22: Two long introductions: One for Jaylee Mead, with an adorable video of her in Pippin, circa 1993, and the other for Tommy Tune, which included a nod to his friendship with Christopher Walken, and this tidbit: As a boy, "Tommy Tune was so skinny that his mother stuffed his clothes with pillows so he wouldn't bruise his bones." He accepts his award by singing "S'wonderful."
9:27: The person Tweeting on behalf of the official Helen Hayes account makes a Charlie Sheen joke about "winning." Apology accepted. Houseworth tweets that she's going to panhandle to come up with the $1,000 she owes Michael Dove to make good on their bet.
9:45: Accepting on behalf of Synetic's Best Ensemble, Resident Play win for Othello, Salma Qarnain also sings "S'wonderful." Advice: Do not attempt to upstage Tommy Tune.
9:56: A montage of people who have passed away. Big applause for Sidney Harman, Jane Pesci-Townsend, Darrin Ellis.
9:59: There is some grumbling: Too many out-of-towners are winning! They've been cast in resident productions.
10:00: Graham Michael Hamilton of the Folger Theatre's Othello is the first of two winners for the Robert Prosky Award for Outstanding Lead Actor, Resident Play. He starts his speech: "Line?" Johnny Ramey, the other winner (Studio Theatre, Superior Donuts), thanks the LA Lakers and his girlfriend, who he tells us is both beautiful and Canadian. Says Ramey: "I think I'm the only guy wearing a blue pinstriped suit. Give it up!"
10:04: Let's talk fashion. Lauren Molina, winner for Lead Actress in a Resident Musical for Candide, looks gorgeous in a sweeping gold halter dress. So does Erika Rose, winner for Lead Actress in a Resident Play (Theater J, In Darfur), in her funky blue and green, bold-print dress. Rose's acceptance speech is also one of the best of the night. Though she addresses the crisis in Darfur poignantly, she thanked everyone who saw the show, saying, "In Darfur is not a date-night play, you know? Well, for some people, but they're kinky."
10:11: There is grumbling about how many awards are tied. ShowBizRadio goes on the offensive, tweeting, "What's wrong with a tie? There were dozens of productions that were judged."
10:14: Oklahoma wins for Outstanding Resident Musical. Presenter David Muse of the Studio Theatre forgets to actually hand the trophy to Molly Smith, and she doesn't notice either (perhaps because she has so many of them?). A trophy girl bounds after her to hand it to her as she walks offstage. And can we talk about these trophy girls? There is a huge height disparity between them, when they stand next to each other. Like nearly a two-foot difference.
10:17: Clybourne Park wins, the folks at Woolly go wild for "H-dawg" once more. A nice night, with no one show or theater dominating all of the awards. On to the afterparty at the Mariott.
10:25: As we're walking to the Marriott, Michael Dove tells Alli Houseworth that she can pay off her debt in installments, with interest. But then they come to the conclusion that, because Dove probably would have pulled that stunt anyway, the bet is null. No panhandling, just dancing. Houseworth is relieved.
10:28: My phone dies, but as it charges, there are many tiny foods to be sampled. Tiny grilled cheese, tiny sliders, tiny quesadillas, tiny pigs in a blanket, tiny pizzas, tiny cupcakes. I present the award for Outstanding Tiny Food to the tiny mac and cheese balls. There is also an open bar, and audience members are partaking liberally. The specialty drink is a vodka gimlet. I get one at three different stations, and at each, it is an entirely different drink. Does it involve olives? Egg whites? What is this mysterious "gimlet"? I become a drink-leaving phantom, abandoning glasses after a few sips.
11:05: I retract a tweet from yesterday about how we're too quick to call any formal event in D.C. a "___ Prom." The Journalism Prom of the White House Correspondents' Dinner is a pretty staid affair, but this Theater Prom is becoming increasingly like a real high school prom. The DJ is playing "Too Close" by Next. There is a photo booth. People are grinding on the dance floor, and there are indeed flasks, as Michael Dove predicted. My live-Tweeting cohort, Patrick Pho, has brought a date, who has abandoned him to hang out with another dude. He's having a flashback to 2002.
- Lucas Maloney's black tie attire included blood.
11:09: Also like real prom: There's always one group that will show up in wacky costumes. The kids from Molotov Theater wore stage blood to the prom.
11:14: I encounter Jon Fischer, who is in an interminable drink line for another one of those elusive gimlets. Not really his scene, he says: "I'm the Bill Simmons of theater reporting. I don't go in the locker room."
11:15: Seemingly everyone knows the moves to the "Single Ladies" dance.
11:34: Oops, I just drank a sip out of someone else's glass.
11:50: I overhear an unconfirmed report that the team from Synetic is dancing the choreography from one of their shows to something ridiculous, perhaps Ke$ha.
Midnight: Your correspondent goes home, takes off high heels, receives unsolicited foot massage, and congratulates this year's winner in the Best Non-Resident Boyfriend category. The tweets continue from the Marriott, where things might be getting sloppy.
9 a.m.: The hangover tweets begin to roll in. Says actor Jason McCool: "Dear #DCtheater. It's payback time. Cordially Yours, #HHA11."