Tony award-winning playwright Anaïs Mitchell ’04 will give 2021 commencement address

The college will also award honorary degrees to Vermonters John B. Derick, Mark Levine and Curtiss Reed Jr.

By Riley Board

Anaïs Mitchell ’04 will give the 2021 Middlebury commencement address.

Anaïs Mitchell ’04, a Tony-award winning playwright and musician, will give the 2021 Middlebury commencement address. Mitchell is the creator of the acclaimed Broadway musical “Hadestown”, and was named one of the most influential people of 2020 by Time Magazine 

Mitchell, a native Vermonter, grew up in Weybridge and majored in political science at Middlebury. Her play “Hadestown,” a retelling of the Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice scored 14 Tony nominations in 2019, of which it won eight, including Best Musical and Best Original Score. She is only the fourth woman to write a full musical — including the book, lyrics and music — for Broadway.

In a college announcement, President Laurie Patton expressed her excitement about Mitchell’s address. 

“Anaïs Mitchell stands apart from all other modern singer-songwriters for her imagination, storytelling, and tremendous songwriting talent,” Patton said. “It is an honor to have Anaïs as our Commencement speaker. She is as interested in the world around her as the one inside her and she tackles big themes through music and theater — skills that will inspire our seniors as they prepare to enter the wider world.”

Mitchell will receive an honorary Doctor of Arts from the college at the ceremony. 

Vermonters John B. Derick, Mark Levine and Curtiss Reed Jr. will receive honorary degrees from the college at this year’s commencement ceremony. (Left to right)

Three other Vermonters will receive honorary degrees at commencement. John B. Derick, a Trail Around Middlebury (TAM) coordinator for 30 years who has built and maintained trails for decades, will be a recipient. Dr. Mark Levine, Vemont’s commissioner of health, will also receive an honorary degree. Dubbed Vermont’s Dr. Fauci, Levine has led the state’s Covid-19 health efforts. The third recipient is Curtiss Reed Jr., a Vermont civil rights leader who has served as the executive director of the Vermont Partnership for Fairness and Diversity since 2001.  

Mitchell and the honorary degree recipients will all visit Middlebury in person for the ceremony.

Commencement will occur this year on Saturday, May 29, in order to accommodate Covid-19 restrictions. An update last week announced that students will each be able to invite two guests to graduation, and that the ceremony will be spread out across five locations to abide by Vermont’s health regulations. Only graduating seniors, remote graduating seniors, their guests and on-campus members of the class of 2021.5 will be allowed to attend the ceremony.

This story has been updated to include the fact that the speaker and honorary degree recipients will appear in person.