The Catholic University of America




From Left to Right: Tracy Lynn Olivera with fellow nominee and husband, Evan Casey; Matt Hirsh; Nick Lehan.

CUA Alumni Win 2017 Helen Hayes Awards

By Christina McCann       

And the winners are...

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Musical-Hayes 

Tracey Lynn Olivera (Vocal Performance '99) 110 In the Shade Ford's Theatre


Outstanding Lead Actor in a Musical-Helen 

Matt Hirsh (Musical Theatre '13) Catch Me If You Can NextStop Theatre Company


Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Musical-Hayes

Nick Lehan (Media Studies '09) Titanic Signature Theatre


Outstanding Production, Musical-Helen

Next to Normal  ------- The Keegan Theatre


A Q&A with the Winners

Is this the first time you've been nominated and/or won a Helen Hayes Award?

Nick: This is the second time I've been nominated and the first time I've won. I was nominated in 2015 for playing Galahad at Toby's Dinner Theatre in their production of SPAMALOT.

Matt: This is both my first nomination and first win of a Helen Hayes Award!

How does it feel to win such a prestigious award in the DC theatre community?

Nick: It was a tremendous honor to just be recognized. I grew up in this theatre community and some of my earliest memories come from The Helen Hayes Awards. My mother, Carole Graham Lehan (another CUA Drama Alum), is a three time Helen Hayes Award nominee. I was always in awe of the awards and how they were steeped in tradition and and how they celebrated our community.

Matt: The nomination itself made me even more proud of a production which gave me the opportunity to do so many things with material I love. Many of us are in the arts because we have a passion for our work and the idea that our creative efforts may leave a lasting impression. To have that work recognized, honored and, in a sense, validated is the cherry on top of the entire process!

How did your training at CUA get you to this point?

Nick: I grew up in a gypsy household and was always in a theatre as my mother bounced around performing/choreographing/directing all over the city. My Grandfather was William H. Graham--he and Father Hartke helped start the Drama Department at CUA. When I came to Catholic, I studied Media Studies and I also lettered in lacrosse for four years: far from your typical conservatory experience. That being said, I was very crafty in sculpting my degree by loading up on Drama classes that were masked as Humanities. I got to take so many acting classes! I loved that training. My biggest mentor at Catholic was Jane Pesci-Townsend. She let me study her intro to Musical Theatre Class and I took voice lessons from her. She changed so much for me. I use her teaching to this day. I love you, Jane!

Matt: The training I received at Catholic prepared me for much more than I thought it would. Classes can seem tedious and difficult, but I find myself using those skills in some way every day. General information about historical facts and terminology I learned in my classes have been applicable in exploring material and having a fluid conversation during a creative process. Even information from general education classes can be useful in the theatre!


What advice do you have for current students pursuing theatre as a career?

Nick: Keep learning. Keep creating. Keep going!

Matt: Some words of wisdom: Never stop learning! Learn from class. Learn from everyday observation. Learn from people who have years of experience. We can always grow as people and performers, and a dedicated mindset can help mold us into the professionals we want to be.



Photos Courtesy of TheatreWashington/ Shannon Finney Photography