ELLE: Hadestown Director Rachel Chavkin on the Story Behind Her Viral Tony Awards Speech
By Bri Kovan
17 June 2019
Last Sunday night, Tony-winning director Rachel Chavkin’s acceptance speech set the internet ablaze with a call-to-arms about diversity on Broadway, asking theater producers (and their counterparts in other industries) to hire artists of color and women artists. “It’s not a pipeline issue,” said Chavkin, who was the only woman to direct a Broadway musical this season. “It’s a failure of imagination.” On stage, Chavkin championed Hadestown, which uses the mythological love stories of Orpheus and Eurydice, and Hades and Persephone as vehicles to discuss workers’ rights, climate change, and authoritarian leadership. (To dive into the show’s folksy New Orleans milieu, check out Hadestown‘s performance from the 73rd Annual Tony Awards, starring Reeve Carney.) The show won eight of its 14 nominations at the Tonys, including best musical, best director, and best original score for singer-songwriter Anaïs Mitchell. It’s the first musical by an all-female principal team to win best musical.
Next up, the Maryland native dives into her next set of projects: Lempicka, a feminist paean to the midcentury Russian artist Tamara de Lempicka, living in Paris between world wars; Annie Salem, an adaptation of Mac Wellman’s 1996 novel, which uses science fiction to understand racism in the post-industrial Rust Belt; and Moby-Dick, her next collaboration with Dave Malloy (of 2017’s Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812, for which Chavkin earned her first Tony nod). “We’re trying to use the ‘great American novel’ to wrestle with twenty-first century America,” she says. “It deals with white supremacy—the whiteness of the whale takes on loaded significance in this adaptation—but also climate change. What’s our relationship to nature as hunters, consumers of nature?”
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