Interview: Jewelle Blackman Reflects on Her Six-Year Journey With HADESTOWN

From original Fate to Persephone, Blackman opens up about her experience with Hadestown, and how it feels to say farewell to the show.

By: Sep. 02, 2023
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After six years with Hadestown, Jewelle Blackman is saying goodbye to the underworld. Blackman's journey with Hadestown began six years ago with the show's Edmonton run as one of The Fates, a role she made her Broadway debut with in 2019. She stepped into the role of Persephone in 2022, and she will take her final bow on September 5th. 

BroadwayWorld spoke with Blackman about how it feels to leave the show after so long, what she's learned throughout the journey, and much more. 

Read the full interview below and check out exclusive backstage portraits by photographer Michael Kushner

You are leaving Hadestown after a six year journey with the show. How do you feel in this moment?

I feel a nice sense of completion, because it has been such a journey with the show. From different countries, to playing different parts, and I ultimately got to play the role that I always wanted to play when I first came across Hadestown, so it feels like a good circular moment, a good close.


You started this journey as one of the original Fates, and you are ending your journey as Persephone. What was it like for you having the opportunity to embody these different characters and experience show from multiple points of view?

I feel truly blessed and fortunate for that. First and foremost because the show itself spoke to me on such a different level than any other show I’ve been able to be a part of. Especially with The Fates. When I was originally a Fate in Canada, I’m a trained violinist, and so I was the violin Fate in Canada, and I’ve yet to do a show that so well-encompassed all of my talents to that extent. So that was special in itself.

And then, being able to transition and see the show and do the show from Persephone’s eyes, which I think is one of the best-written parts for a woman out there right now. She’s so multi-layered, there’s so much texture, and variety, and range, the vocal requirements needed for her is a gift. So, I’ve been very fortunate to see it and play it from two very different vantage points.


How does it feel to have a show be a part of your life for so long?

I guess I’ll only really know once it’s no longer a part of my life! It’s hard to answer that question, but I gauge it this way, when I first got involved in the show, my son was six years old, and now he’s 12. So it’s been half of his life. I feel like I know now is the time to move on, just because it’s been a part of my life for so long.

What have you learned about yourself throughout your years of performing in Hadestown?

That I can always push myself to do more. That all things are attainable and within reach as long as I persevere and keep working towards it. And things do happen, I believe, when they are supposed to happen. When I first got Hadestown on Broadway, I didn’t understudy Persephone, although I wanted to. I wasn’t allowed to understudy Persephone, they already had two understudies. And then as I was signing for the second year, they asked me, because I had told them I really wanted to understudy her, and then I was able to start understudying her.

The day before the shutdown was my last rehearsal before the put-in the following day. And literally during that rehearsal, the producers walked on stage and said, “Broadway is shut down.” So, I never got to bring that Persephone to light, and that was back in March of 2020. I had to wait until October of 2021 to begin performing - still understudying - Persephone. And I believe all things happen for a reason, because the Persephone that I would have done before the pandemic is very different from the one I did after, because life happens, and a lot of life happened during that 18-month period of time, in terms of my life. I believe everything happens for a reason, and when it’s your time, it’s inevitable it will happen.


What do you think that you will miss the most about the show?

What’s cool about doing Hadestown, and that part, Persephone, is at this point is that it is so a part of me now that I’m in such a place where I can play even more, there is no stress related to performing it. And so, I’m going to miss the ease and the freedom that I feel with that. Because I feel so comfortable with the part. Of course I’m always challenging myself, and pushing myself, but there is an ease, there is no longer the anxiety that can come up at times. So I will definitely miss that. And I’ll miss the Hadestown family, that includes cast and crew, there are some lifelong friendships that were made here, and I will truly miss that.

Do you have any advice for incoming cast members?

Hadestown likes to draw talent that is different from the norm. A voice that maybe doesn’t sound like every other voice, or someone that doesn’t look like everybody else. So, I think anybody coming in should just stay true to that, stay true to themselves. That uniqueness is what makes Hadestown so special, we’re all such individuals putting on this incredible story collectively together. So, leaning into your uniqueness and what makes you an individual is the best thing that you can do, and that will keep Hadestown strong.


What’s next for you?

 Hadestown has kept me away from my child for a period of time, I’m Canadian, so I’m going back to Toronto to live, that’s home base for me. My son is going into the 8th grade, and so I get to be in full mommy mode again, which will be great, I’m looking forward to it. I also have projects that I’m working on, I have some funding from the Ontario Arts Council and a theater company called The Musical Stage Company, and they’re helping me to develop a couple of my shows. So as opposed to performing, I’m really looking into working more on developing those works.


Photo credit: Michael Kushner Photography of The Dressing Room Project 

Michael Kushner is NYC’s leading multi-hyphenate and the Executive Producer of the EMMY Nominated series Indoor Boys. In true multi-hyphenate form, Michael's book How to be a Multi-Hyphenate in the Theatre Business, published by Routledge Publishing is arriving Spring of 2023. He served as the Director of Programming for The Green Room 42, providing the space with sold out programming post pandemic. He is the owner of Michael Kushner Photography and has been published in People, NYTimes, Vogue, etc. He is also the creator of The Dressing Room Project, where he photographs actors prepping for their roles on and off Broadway. Ithaca College BFA in Musical Theatre (2020 Outstanding Young Alumni Award), Founding member of Musical Theatre Factory. Exec Producer of XaveMePlease (Created by Wesley Taylor, Frameline 43 Festival Finalist). Active participant of Covenant House Sleep Out. Podcast: Dear Multi-Hyphenate with Broadway Podcast Network (guests include Carol Burnett, Billy Porter, Carson Kressley, Rachel Brosnahan, and more). Michael teaches theatre business to the advanced NYU performance students at The Lee Strasberg Institute. Michael is also a performer (On The Town, Pre-Broadway Tryout Directed by John Rando at Barrington Stage) and a member of AEA. IG and Tik Tok: @themichaelkushner


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