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Diversity and the Dynamic Women Behind Hadestown

Photography by T. Charles Erickson

Originally published in SOFU Lifestyle

Hadestown demands that theater make space for diverse voices. Its modern premise reflects the values of our changing culture through a transformative musical that reimagines Greek mythology. Beyond artistic excellence, Hadestown’s diversity cements the musical’s lasting influence.

Director Rachel Chavkin, and writer and composer Anaïs Mitchell, are the women behind Hadestown’s greatness, accentuating and deepening each other’s strengths. “We sought out the folks whose work we responded to most, and many of them were women,” Mitchell says. A Broadway production team led by women is rare, but the dynamic benefited Hadestown greatly. “It was an extraordinarily empowering experience working with so many women,” says Mitchell. 

Written by Mitchell in various forms years before Broadway, Hadestown would prove to need the influence of Chavkin in order to reach its fullest potential. Mitchell sought Chavkin’s talents to help develop Hadestown into a full-length musical, and the folk musical became a product of each artist’s best. 

After helping escort Hadestown to Broadway’s pinnacle, Chavkin was the only woman nominated for a 2019 TONY in the Best Direction of a Musical category, which she won. “When you look at the small number of women directing on Broadway it is shocking and more than a little depressing,” wrote producer David Stone in 2005. Little has changed in 15 years, but Chavkin has said publicly that she hopes her work can open doors for women and artists of color. 

When assembling teams for her productions, Chavkin draws from the best and selects the most talented artists. By intentionally embracing inclusivity, she builds a diverse company that understands the needs of a global audience. “I think a [diverse] room is far more interesting, just purely on a dramatic level. It's so much better stylistically, emotionally to have varied voices. And so, with Hadestown specifically, we have reaffirmed time and again that racial diversity in particular is core to our vision of excellence.”

“Theater depicts and celebrates humanity, and humanity is diverse,” asserts Mitchell. And so, thanks to the shared commitments of its creators, Hadestown strives for connection to every human experience, showing diversity to be colorful, productive, and exciting.