Broadway Legend André De Shields Finally Gets His Flowers
"When one understands that everything is poetry, that everything is metaphor, then sometimes it's all of a sudden, sometimes it's slowly, the meaning of every experience becomes voluminous."
It would be easy to think, as I did, that winning a Tony Award at the age of 73, after almost five decades on Broadway, would have only a nominal effect on one's career.
When André De Shields won in 2019 for his role of Hermes in the musical, Hadestown, he'd already originated roles in iconic Broadway shows like Ain't Misbehavin', The Full Monty, and The Wiz where he played the title role. André had created a career that was revered.
Yet receiving a Tony, he says, "legitimized" his career.
"Prior to Hadestown, I played The Magical Negro. I have no regrets about that. But that was the mold out of which I was creating a career. But all the while...and this is going to sound corny, but it's true. All the while I'm saying, "Why doesn't someone cast me for my mind? For my intellect? Am I really just another pretty face?" And it came together in Hadestown."
André recently left Hadestown after a three-year stint that included Broadway’s pandemic-induced shutdown and he will return to Broadway this fall in the newest revival of Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman.
I’ve been enamored by André, specifically that slow, magical cadence that he speaks with, and had him at the top of my Dream List when we launched the LGBTQ+ Elders Project. Finally getting to speak to him felt like a real gift.
On this week’s episode of LGBTQ&A, we talk about the five decades he’s spent on Broadway, being a long-term survivor of HIV, and arriving in New York City during the sexual revolution of the 1970s.
And then next week, for our season finale, I’ll be joined by an icon of American history…
I can’t wait for you to hear it.