The 100 Most Influential People of 2020
Shervin Lainez
By André De Shields
September 22, 2020 9:34 PM EDT

Once upon a time in 2009, I was departing Central Park’s Delacorte Theater, having completed a performance as Tiresias in a production of Euripides’ The Bacchae, when I was introduced to Anaïs Mitchell by a mutual colleague. In the shadows cast by the pale light attacking us from the men’s restroom, Anaïs seemed to be made entirely of magic. It was a brief but indelible encounter.

This was the alchemical quality that Anaïs brought to her great folk opera, the 2019 Broadway hit Hadestown, a cautionary tale adapted from the Greek myth of Orpheus rescuing his love Eurydice from the underworld, which teaches that love cannot be found if faith has been lost. Anaïs has the aura of an oracle, the prescience of a blind poet and the skill to tease rhymes from consonants. It was the wonder of watching Anaïs respond with awe to her own creation that served as the company’s guiding beacon throughout the arduous journey from concept to execution.

I am a man who invests great credence in omens and signs. It took 10 years for that chance meeting in 2009 to unfold as the Tony Award winner for best musical of 2019, but I’m so glad it did, and not a moment too soon. During this COVID era of great anxiety and uncertainty, I look forward to the resurgence of Broadway, the return of Hadestown and the promise of Anaïs’ lyrics: “We raise our cups to Orpheus and all of us.”

De Shields is an Emmy-, Grammy- and Tony Award-winning actor

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