|Helen Hayes Award|
|Awarded for||Excellence in professional theatre in the Washington, D.C. area|
The Helen Hayes Awards are theater awards recognizing excellence in professional theater in the Washington, D.C. area since 1983. The awards are named in tribute of Helen Hayes, who is also known as the "First Lady of American Theatre." They are presented by Theatre Washington (formerly known as the Helen Hayes Awards organization), sponsored by TodayTix, a ticketing company, and supported in part by the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities, The Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation, The Max and Victoria Dreyfus Foundation, The Share Fund, Prince Charitable Trust, and Craig Pascal and Victor Shargai. 
In 1983, together with producing partner Arthur Cantor and Washington Post critic emeritus Richard L. Coe, Broadway producer Bonnie Nelson Schwartz presented a plan for strengthening and cultivating theatre in her home city, Washington, D.C., to the first lady of the American theatre and native Washingtonian, Helen Hayes, who embraced the idea. The Washington Theatre Awards Society was founded to recognize and encourage excellence in professional theatre in the Washington region through the presentation of the Helen Hayes Awards.
The organization launched education and communication programs. The early success of the Helen Hayes Awards suggested that the organization do business under the name of its most visible program. Eventually, at the input of the theatre community and a wide range of stakeholders, the organization aimed to become more robust, and adopted the name "theatreWashington" to better reflect the breadth and geographic scope of its realigned activities. In 2021 it changed its name to Theatre Washington.
Due to criticism of the "one size fits all" philosophy of the awards, in September 2013 theatreWashington announced that, effective with the 2015 awards, the awards would be split into
These awards would be at the production level, not at the company level.
With nearly 80 professional theatre companies, Washington, D. C., is second only to New York for the number of productions each year. During the 2011 season, 53 theatres produced 192 shows in the January 1 – December 31 judging cycle. From these shows, 153 artists, ensembles, and productions from 26 theatres were nominated for Helen Hayes Awards, which are given for resident and nonresident productions. The awards for acting, directing, design, choreography, productions, and more include: