Posted September 6, 2012
Kevin Spacey Honored at 28th Helen Hayes Awards
By Gregory Gorton
Two-time Academy Award winning actor Kevin Spacey was the recipient of The Helen Hayes Tribute Sponsored by Jaylee Mead, at the 28th annual Helen Hayes Awards. The awards were presented on April 23rd, 2012, at the Warner Theater in Washington D.C.
In his career of more than thirty years, a considerable amount of that time has been spent on the stage. Mr. Spacey has been awarded a Tony Award and Drama Desk award among several others. Linda Levy Grossman, President of Theatre Washington has said, "As an artist and advocate for the arts, Kevin Spacey makes us realize the tragedy we would face if there were no theatre."
As Mr. Spacey stood at the dais to accept the award, he urged the tech crew to raise the house lights so that he could see the audience and better share the experience with them. "All of us go into this job thinking, ‘Are they going to like me?’ God knows we are not going in it for the money. You certainly know that if you’re in D.C."
Mr. Spacey recalled a time very early in his career when he found himself sitting in the green room of the old Eisenhower Theater in Washington D.C. He spoke of looking around the room at the photos on the walls; especially those of Henry Fonda and his idol, Jack Lemmon. "I was on my way to getting my Equity card and knew I was starting my journey."
Lemmon as it turns out, became a dear friend and mentor of Spacey, who once said of working with his young friend, "Kevin Spacey has never stolen anything...the only thing he’s ever stolen are my scenes." But it is with great pride and dedication that Mr. Spacey also quoted Lemmon as saying, "If you’ve done well in the business you set out to be successful in, it is your obligation to spend a good portion of your time sending the elevator back down."
That sense of awareness for and appreciation of our theater community is something that is very alive in Washington theater, and was well evidenced throughout the evening’s ceremonies.
Director Jerry Whiddon, himself a multiple Helen Hayes Award winner, assembled a talented group of performers and an eclectic group of presenters to make the evening as interesting as it was enjoyable. Mr. Whiddon reinstated the use of hosts for the evening; in this case the team of D.C. favorites Felicia Curry and Holly Twyford. The two ladies bantered in brief comic turns between introducing presenters and musical numbers and wowed the crowd with their seemingly endless costume changes. The musical parodies were well written and well performed by a group of the Washington area’s talented musical theater favorites.
Mixed in among the many local actors serving as presenters were various local political and media luminaries such as Nina Totenberg, Chris Matthews, Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett and Congressman Jim Moran of Virginia. It proved a strong showing of the solidarity of the theater community and some of the more prominent supporters of local theater.
As the evening progressed, more and more of the acceptance speeches played to this element of solidarity within the acting community. Michael Baron, accepting the award for Outstanding Director of a Resident Musical for Adventure Theater’s "A Year With Frog and Toad," even expanded the circle of this community. "Here’s to theater for family and children. And a special shout out to Michael Bobbitt." Rena Cherry Brown, who received the award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Resident Play for "Wit" at The Bay Theater Company said, "Thank you to Janet Luby (artistic director) for her courage and forethought to choose this play."
The appeal of the DC/Baltimore Theater scene has been known to lure actors both far and wide. Signature Theater’s production of "Hairspray’s" Outstanding Lead Actress Carolyn Cole stated, "Moving here was the best decision I’ve made in my life; other than marrying my husband. DC theater is just amazing."
As the evening drew to a close there was no one theater with a runaway in terms of total awards bestowed. Signature Theater led the field with five, but The Shakespeare Theatre and Theatre J each earned three.
The evening also produced two ties. Outstanding Choreography for a resident production were shared by Synetic Theater’s Ben Cunis and Irina Tsikurishvilli for "King Lear". Synetic also received the twofer with Konstantine Lortkipanidze and Irakli Kavsadze taking the award for Outstanding Sound Design for "King Lear" and The Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company’s Chris Baine also took the sound award for "A Bright New Boise".
And finally, to paraphrase Lennon and McCartney, "A pleasant time was had by all." And to refer once again to Mr. Kevin Spacey; his opening remarks serve well to summarize the feeling of the nominees, the performers and the audience as a whole, "It doesn’t get any better than this."
Gregory Gorton is the Washington/Baltimore correspondent for Equity.
For the full Awards list see below: