Patrick Page has been with Hadestown since its first theatrical incarnations, notably its acclaimed 2016 Off-Broadway run at New York Theatre Workshop. And when the Lord of the Underworld opens his mouth for the first time in the show and bellows with that booming bass, you realize there are only a few actors who could sing Hades as written. Yet Page’s Tony Award-nominated performance is much more than a vocal register. Throughout workshops and Off-Broadway, productions in Canada and London on its way to Broadway, Page has been mining and molding details about the Hades that rules today.
“For me, it’s been about clarifying what Hades wants at every single moment,” Page tells Playbill. Page’s Hades isn’t a typical villain. In Page’s careful hands, he keeps people down not for his own power, but out of desperation, grasping for love.
Here, he talks about the four crucial ingredients he blends to yield a God among men.
“That starts with Anais Mitchell. She wrote the character, she wrote the song in this kind of subterranean phase, which is very rarely heard in the theater. I think that came from a couple of things: She may be unique among Broadway songwriters and composers in that she composes on the guitar. If you were looking at the keyboard and you saw that what you were writing for the actor was G below the lowest key on the keyboard you might [rethink]. Because she's writing on the guitar she's simply hearing the voice in her mind and what she hears in her mind for the underworld is this incredibly, almost supernaturally, low voice. The first clue I have about the character is where she's placed him tonally on the scale, and then all of the other decisions kind of flow out of that.
“Also, It comes from the fact that we set up this character, who is the title character, you don't hear from him for a half an hour, and when you finally do hear from him, he's got three words. I felt like that had to make some kind of impact, so it ought to surprise. It's the “way down under the ground,” in caves and echo, deep and low, and where boulders roll and make these kind of thunderous sounds, where labor is.”
"You think about those animals that are completely still until they strike, like an alligator or a crocodile. There's something very powerful about stillness on stage, especially when there's a lot of movement around you. For example, Anthony Hopkins in Silence of the Lambs—that complete stillness until there's a move, which I've always found very powerful. [His stature] you feel it from the ground up, and from the sky up, as if there's a line in you moving way down below your feet and a line that moving up above your head."
“Michael Krass and I worked together to find an image. The pinstripes and the cowboy boots and the hair all help to make me look taller than I really am. The pinstripes are vertical so they make everything go up and down [and give height]. Then we worked to find a way to have an image at the beginning, which is where he's quite covered up when he's wearing the leather jacket and glasses, sunglasses, to where it's a little less covered up, to where it's pretty opened up at the end of the play, because eventually the actor becomes much more human. It’s about stripping it away, rolling up the sleeves, opening up the collar, taking off the jacket, slowly revealing the man underneath the armor.
“This is just like a bottom line feeling that came from the music that, although he was not a very, very, very wealthy man, that there was something very working class about him, like a Johnny Cash, or Keith Carradine, or Jim Jones of Jonestown, Guyana. Something a little kinky about the garters, and about the tattoo. If this is going to be a business man wearing a double-breasted, three-piece suit, that I wanted the audience to know that he clawed his way here, he wasn't born with a silver spoon in his mouth. And frankly the open collar was partly a costume thing, but it's also a singing thing. My neck sort of expands about three inches when I have to sing that low like a bullfrog. I kept saying to Michael, ‘I got to have an open collar.’”
“What the character wants most in the world will tell you what the character wants most in life. For me, what Hades wants most in the world is to have Persephone back, to have her full love, and everything I do is based on my love for her. With what I build in Hadestown and trying to create down there, I’m trying to impress her. When I seduce Eurydice, I’m trying to make her jealous; when I’m trying to destroy Orpheus, I’m vanquishing a much younger, more attractive potential rival for her, the fact that she even cares about him, as opposed to siding with me is something that is very hard as Hades to deal with, so I have to destroy him. The demonstration of my power over a younger rival will make me more attractive, and of course it's exactly the opposite of what Persephone wants. But that's where I come from, until the moment when he reminds me that there was a time I wasn't armored.
“I really have tried to imagine very deeply what it is to be in love with a woman who—and not just in love, I'm talking about Cryano-Roxane in love, I'm talking about Romeo and Juliet in love, I'm talking about a kind of classical love—so in love with someone who leaves for six months of the year, who has something that's that important to her that she would just leave. I want to be with her every moment, the fact that she wants to be somewhere else for six months of the year, I can't [handle it].
“Orpheus and Hades are mirror images of each other in a lot of ways, and Orpheus has a line in the show where he says, ‘Who am I that I should get to hold you?’ and I feel that's how Hades feels about Persephone: I don't deserve you. I live with this deep-seated insecurity at all times, which is what drives all my behavior.”