In a career spanning more than forty years, André De Shields has distinguished himself as an unparalleled actor, director, choreographer and educator. He is the recipient of the 2009 National Black Theatre Festival Living Legend Award, the 2009 AUDELCO Award for Outstanding Performance by a Lead Actor in a Musical/Male (Archbishop Supreme Tartuffe), and the 2007 Village Voice OBIE Award for Sustained Excellence of Performance. In observance of Black Heritage Month 2009, he created his very first solo performance—MINE EYES HAVE SEEN THE GLORY: From Douglass To Deliverance, which has evoked powerful emotional response from audiences in New York at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Labor Center, and at The Yard on Martha’s Vineyard. Costarring with Jeremy Irons and Joan Allen, he garnered considerable critical acclaim in the roles of Chiambuane and Mr. Linder in the world premiere of Michael Jacobs’ new American play, Impressionism. He made his New York Shakespeare Festival debut as Teiresias, the blind prophet, in the Public Theater’s production of Euripides’ The Bacchae, directed by Joanne Akalaitis, with a score by Philip Glass, at Central Park’s Delacorte Theatre. A second debut was marked at The Alliance Theatre in Atlanta, GA as Robert in David Mamet’s A Life In The Theatre.
However, Mr. De Shields is best known for his show stopping performances in the original Broadway productions of four legendary musicals: The Full Monty, for which he received Tony, Drama Desk and Astaire Award nominations, in addition to both the Outer Critics Circle and Drama League Awards; Play On! (Tony nomination), Ain’t Misbehavin’ (Drama Desk nomination) and The Wiz (title role). He created the role of Graham in the world premiere of Mark Medoff’s Prymate at Florida State University, and revisited that role in the short-lived yet controversial Broadway production at the Longacre Theatre (Drama Desk nomination). At the behest of its Cultural Foundation, Mr. De Shields has twice performed his tribute to Louis Armstrong, Ambassador Satch, in the United Arab Emirates.
At the Classical Theatre of Harlem, he has participated in five remarkable collaborations with its former Artistic Director, Alfred Preisser—as Makak in Derek Walcott’s Dream On Monkey Mountain, in the title roles of Archbishop Supreme Tartuffe, Caligula and King Lear—resulting in a co-production with the Folger Shakespeare Theatre in Washington, DC during its 2006-2007 season, commemorating its seventy-fifth anniversary—and Langston Hughes’ Black Nativity (Lucille Lortel, Drama Desk and Drama league Award nominations/Outstanding Leading Man in a Musical). He received the 2007 Classical Theatre of Harlem Award for Sustained Excellence in the Theatre.