By Bernadette Launi
John Sygar, a Catholic University senior Musical Theatre major, received a nomination earlier this month for the coveted Helen Hayes Awards. The Helen Hayes Awards, established in 1983, recognize excellence for professional theatre in the Washington, D.C. area. Sygar, a native of Bowie, MD, received his nomination for “Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Musical” in recognition of his role in Garfield: the Musical with Cattitude at Adventure Theatre Musical Theatre Center in Glen Echo, MD.
“It is an absolute honor to be placed in the same category as some of the amazingly talented Washington, D.C. actors,” said Sygar about his nomination.
The Helen Hayes Awards are given out in honor of the late actress that the award is named for. She was often proclaimed “The First Lady of the American Theatre.” Over the course of the last year, the judges for the award have attended 202 productions in over 90 theatres in the D.C. metro area with 59 of those performances being world premieres.
In recognition of professional theatre talent throughout the area, Thomas Pedersen, head of the musical theatre division in the Benjamin T. Rome School of Music, described the award as “the Tony award of D.C.” This makes it quite an honor for a university student to be recognized among the throngs of more experienced performers in the area. While two members of Catholic University’s music school faculty, Eleanor Holdridge and Kathryn Chase Bryer, also received nominations in the director categories, Sygar was the only Catholic University student to receive this honor.
“John is a truly outstanding student in the music school here at CUA,” said Pedersen. “He is a very versatile performer with a good voice and is a great dancer and an intense actor. In the theatre world we call that the ‘triple threat.’”
Garfield, which premiered this past summer at Adventure Theatre, featured Sygar in the role of Odie, the canine sidekick to the head cat himself. Though the part did not have any lines, Sygar found other challenges in the role.
“I was able to explore the physicality of being a dog and rely on physical choices rather than the text,” Sygar said. “It was demanding but extremely rewarding.”
The dean of Catholic University’s school of music, Grayson Wagstaff, could not be more pleased with Sygar’s nomination.
“This is truly extraordinary for an undergraduate student to be considered alongside so many professional actors in elite theatres in the greater Washington, D.C. region,” said Wagstaff, understanding the scope of the nomination. “This is definitely a credit to our outstanding musical theatre program and faculty at CUA.”
Sygar, as a senior quickly approaching graduation from the musical theater program, is looking ahead. He plans to stay in the D.C. area after graduation to continue his acting career.