Nyla Watson, who plays one of the Fates, talks her experience in theatre and her time in “Hadestown.”
In 2019, “Hadestown” took home eight Tony Awards and became an instant classic on Broadway thanks to a memorable book and score by singer-songwriter Anaïs Mitchell and innovative directing by Rachel Chavkin.
A touring production of the Best Musical winner will play the National Theatre from June 6-18.
The story is based on two mythic tales — the ancient Greek myth where young dreamer Orpheus goes to the underworld to rescue his lover, Eurydice; and one of King Hades and his wife Persephone. There’s also a trio of Fates, who act as the subconscious of the characters — sort of the devil and angel on people’s shoulders.
One of the Fates is played by Nyla Watson, who has been a part of the tour for the past year.
“We tell it like it is and we help Hermes narrate the show sometimes,” she says. “Most of the time, we are bringing to light the actions these characters have and the choices they make.”
Watson feels that the role is perfect for her, as she considers herself a truth-teller in real life.
“I’m one who is intentional about making sure the people in front of me, whether they are right or wrong, know the choice that they are making,” she says. “The Fates are a little more malicious than I am in real life; I try to be as kindhearted as possible. But they are very much the ‘I’ll let you fall on the banana before I pick up the peel’ kind of girls. That allows me to tap into the ferocious part of me, which can be fun at times.”
Although she knew a bit about Greek mythology from high school, Watson didn’t know much about these intertwined stories when originally going out for the part. A lot of her research was watching interviews the Broadway cast had done and learning the backstory of the production.
“The Grammy Award-winning soundtrack was out at that time, so I was able to be acquainted with the music of the show,” Watson says.
Born in Cleveland, Watson was “discovered” by her high school theatre teacher who heard her singing in the hallway and persuaded her to join the school’s musical.
“I come from church and my mother is a pastor, and though I never had any formal training, singing in the choir is a different kind of formal training,” she says. “There is a level of technique that comes with that.”
At the time, she didn’t even know school musicals were a thing, but she was cast in “Little Shop of Horrors” and never looked back. She’s thrilled to be part of “Hadestown” and helping introduce theatre to others.
“I enjoy bringing this show to audiences who would otherwise not be able to see this show,” Watson says. “When I was younger, I had to usher to see shows. Who knows if there is another little Nyla in the back or who was like me, and didn’t know that this was a thing. And they get to see someone on stage who looks like them. I feel it’s a responsibility to artists to reach back, and I feel like this is my way of reaching back and bringing this level of art to the local communities.”
While on tour, Watson goes to local high schools and teaches master classes as part of Broadway Plus, which is another way she gives back.
She encourages people to see “Hadestown” because it’s not a typical Broadway show and is so intentional about diversity and inclusion in every respect.
“This is a show for everybody,” she says. “I even call it ‘boy theatre,’ because a lot of times the stereotype is it’s a girl’s night or a date night, but I feel this is a show that speaks to everyone, the dad included. This is a show about choice and that’s something we can all resonate with. You watch this young man come of age in loving a woman and falling in love for a first time and leaving a legacy. And he come up against Hades. It speaks to manhood and what someone is willing to do for love.”
“Hadestown” plays at National Theatre from June 6-18. Tickets start at $70 and can be purchased here.
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