‘Hadestown’ director Rachel Chavkin’s tattoos: an annotated guide

"Hadestown" director Rachel Chavkin has tattoos to commemorate, among other things, her theater project of the moment. This tattoo is based on Matisse's "The Lyre," a reference to Orpheus in her current musical.
(Rachel Chavkin)

“Hadestown” director Rachel Chavkin carries her past with her, quite literally, in the form of tattoos. As we were interviewing her about her second Tony nomination, she mentioned that she has been acquiring body art since 2000, sometimes to commemorate her theater project of the moment. She readily chronicled her tattoo timeline for us by email.


Turtle on her lower back. She acquired the tattoo in Amsterdam while under the influence, she said, “inspired by my love for Stephen King’s book ‘It,’ in which a turtle plays a significant role.”


Compass on the top of her right foot. She got this one, she said, “after my boyfriend broke up with me, and I needed to keep moving forward.”


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Double band cuff on her left ankle. This one came “a year after the breakup, when I was feeling more stable/grounded to the earth.”


“We’re just gonna go for a walk” on her right forearm. She got a tattoo with that message while in Iowa for Christmas. She wanted to commemorate “Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812.” The phrase is a reference to when Chavkin needed to convey some advice to composer Dave Malloy during technical rehearsal. Rather than potentially embarrass him in front of cast and crew, Malloy recalled, Chavkin took him by the arm and said, “Dave, we’re just gonna go for a walk.”

The “We’re just gonna go for a walk” tattoo on Chavkin’s right arm.
(Emilio Madrid-Kuser)

Armadillo on her left bicep. That same year Chavkin acquired a tattoo of an armadillo with its front claws removed. She said she got it “for my dad, with whom I share the great love for John Irving’s ‘A Prayer for Owen Meany,’ which we’ve read together multiple times, and in which a stuffed armadillo features prominently.”

Chavkin's armadillo, which stands under the Matisse "Lyre" on her arm.
(Rachel Chavkin)


The Matisse cutout “The Lyre” on her left forearm. Chavkin said it’s “both for ‘Hadestown,’ for Orpheus (a lyre player) and for this storyteller/composer team I work with named James & Jerome. We were making a site-specific work for the Met called ‘Museum,’ about various works of art. Also, my mom loves the Matisse cutouts from his later period, when he was losing his sight.”

Coming soon

A whale. Chavkin’s next tattoo will commemorate her forthcoming musical project, “Moby Dick.” She said she will get the tattoo following the expected August birth of a baby she is having “with and for two of my best friends. I’ll be like the mommy and auntie.” “Moby Dick,” Chavkin said, is also her mom’s favorite book.

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