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André De Shields drew inspiration from Baltimore on his journey from City College graduate to Tony winner

André De Shields drew inspiration from Baltimore on his journey from City College graduate to Tony winner
André Robin DeShields, center top, pictured with the Publications Business Staff in page 44 of the 1964 Baltimore City College Yearbook. (Kenneth Lam / Baltimore Sun)

When Baltimore native and Baltimore City College graduate André De Shields won a Tony award on June 9, he shouted out his hometown from the stage.

“Baltimore, Maryland, are you in the house?” said De Shields, according to broadway.com. “I hope you’re watching at home because I am making good on my promise that I would come to New York and become someone you’d be proud to call your native son.”

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André Robin DeShields, center, pictured in page 191 of the 1964 Baltimore City College Yearbook.
André Robin DeShields, center, pictured in page 191 of the 1964 Baltimore City College Yearbook. (Kenneth Lam / Baltimore Sun)

De Shields won for his role as Hermes in “Hadestown,” a stage musical adaptation of the 2010 folk album of the same name by singer-songwriter, Anaïs Mitchell.

In 1964, De Shields graduated from City College and embarked on his now 50-year career.

He was later inducted into the alumni association hall of fame, where his photo can be seen hanging on the walls of City College.

“For some time, he has been a popular individual here in terms of his stature in theater. Many alums have spoken about him,” the current principal of City College, Cindy Harcum, said.

André Robin DeShields as pictured in page 115 of the 1964 Baltimore City College Yearbook.
André Robin DeShields as pictured in page 115 of the 1964 Baltimore City College Yearbook. (Kenneth Lam / Baltimore Sun)

De Shields grew up near Pennsylvania Avenue, in Baltimore City’s Upton neighborhood, just 3.2 miles away from BCC, and was the ninth of 11 children.

In a 2015 interview with The Baltimore Sun, De Shields said that he drew inspiration from his hometown and places like The Royal Theater.

"The Royal Theater — to me, it was a cathedral — [it] was where I would go for my window on the world.

While the 73-year-old award winner spoke fondly of Baltimore, he also acknowledged how the city’s challenges made him stronger.

"It was with a kind of mettle, a kind of warrior attitude that I was able to face down a world that was totally alien to me," De Shields said.

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