As the temporary shutdown of Broadway and theatres around the world continues, Playbill is reaching out to some of our favorite artists to see how they are physically and creatively responding to a changed world.
The series continues with André De Shields, who garnered Outer Critics Circle, Drama Desk, and Tony Awards for his knockout performance as Hermes in the Tony-winning musical Hadestown. The Broadway favorite made his acting debut in the 1969 Chicago production of Hair. He created the role of The Wiz in the 1975 hit musical The Wiz, which was followed by starring roles in Ain’t Misbehavin’, Stardust, Play On! (Tony nomination), The Full Monty (Tony nomination), Prymate, and Impressionism. De Shields is also the recipient of the 2019 Oscar Hammerstein Award for Lifetime Achievement in Musical Theatre and the 2019 Richard Seff Award presented by Actors’ Equity Foundation. Also a Grammy and Emmy winner, his screen credits include Katy Keene, Almost Family, Law & Order, The Backseat, The Inheritance, The Good Heart, Life on Mars, Sex and the City, Extreme Measures, Prison, and more. He is also the recipient of the 2007 Village Voice Obie Award for Sustained Excellence of Performance as well as Chicago’s Black Theatre Alliance Award, two Joseph Jefferson Awards, and five AUDELCO Awards.
What is your typical day like now?
My typical day begins with isometric exercises shortly after sunrise, followed with an echinacea and bitters tonic. More often than not my late mornings to mid-afternoon hours are dedicated to a menu of Zoom commitments: master classes, interviews, podcasts, or Hadestown marketing strategies. A late afternoon walk revivifies me. My one daily meal always includes a fatty fish—wild salmon, tuna, sardines, mackerel, etc.—and I load up on plant-based fats—avocado, macadamia nuts, wheat germ oil, etc. I eschew screen time until after midnight. Four to five hours of dream-laden sleep suits me just fine.
What book/TV show/podcast/film should everyone take the time to consume during this period?
Thomas Merton's New Seeds of Contemplation, Joseph Campbell's The Hero With a Thousand Faces, Wayne W. Dyer's There's a Spiritual Solution to Every Problem, and Eckhart Tolle's A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose.
What advice would you give to someone who may be struggling with the isolation?
What appears to be a moratorium on living is actually a well-needed detour from habitual responses and the inability to focus on one's self, because we're always focused on something else. Interior architecture is crucial to navigating the world as your authentic Self. Do not squander this miracle moment of silence!
How are you keeping your creative juices flowing?
By pursuing only those blessings which have my name written upon them.
Are you working on any theatrical projects during this time?
No. I am dedicated to performing those many tasks that went neglected during the torrent of abundance that was my 2019.
What organization(s) would you recommend people learn more about or donate to during this time of change?
Founded by Bryan Stevenson, the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) is a not-for-profit organization, based in Montgomery, Alabama, and dedicated to providing legal representation to prisoners on Death Row. The EJI also built the National Memorial for Peace and Justice, informally known as the National Lynching Museum, also in Montgomery, Alabama. Bryan Stevenson's admirable work is the subject of the recently released film Just Mercy.