In addition to winning Tony Awards in six categories, including Best Musical, “Dear Evan Hansen” has been hailed as an incredibly influential part of furthering the discussion surrounding mental health. The show acknowledges this role, even partnering with organizations that help those who are suffering from mental health issues. The complete list of partners is on the “Dear Evan Hansen” website, and each cast member is tasked with memorizing this resource list.
The musical outwardly embraces its role in mental health awareness, even participating in panel discussions about mental health at Facebook‘s New York office for Mental Health Awareness Month. While lead producer Stacey Mindich recognizes the show’s responsibility and influence in the mental health sphere, she actually pinpoints the main subject of the show as human connection.
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The importance of human connection is an increasingly crucial conversation during this age of online connection because, as Mindich said, “We all feel alone.”
What is “Dear Evan Hansen” actually about?
“You can say it’s about mental illness, it’s brought an awareness of that, so we’ve embraced that and we’re proud of it…but it’s really about connection,” Mindich said.
The show touches on difficult subjects such as depression, anxiety, and suicide, which is why it has been included in many mental health discussions.
“People think our show is about whatever is going on in their lives,” Mindich said. “People diagnose Evan with whatever they have, or their kids have … the truth is that our show is about connection at its very base level.”
“Dear Evan Hansen” does spread the message that it’s important to talk about mental illness, but the story also emphasizes that it’s important to connect with the people around you in general.
“Talking to your parents, children, and friends saves lives,” Mindich said.
Lead producer Stacey Mindich on what first hooked her on “Dear Evan Hansen”
Mindich originally met with Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, the duo that wrote the music and lyrics to “Dear Evan Hansen”, because she loved the idea of producing a story that came from two 20-something-year-olds.
“The base of the idea that started what Evan Hansen was…was just their desire to write something authentic and a mirror of our lives today,” Mindich said.
As a mother, Mindich was really drawn to the story based on “the global idea of parent and child and connection.”
“If they were going to show a mirror of who Evan was…a 17-year-old boy…he needed to have a mother and then they were going to show a multi-generational family story,” Mindich said.
Based off the idea of human connection, Mindich was fascinated by the different ways that parents connect with their children and the struggles that come along with that process.
“It’s still a trick and a challenge to figure out how to talk to your kids. Mindich admitted that she’s a much more observant mother as a result of producing the show.
“The best advice I ever got was from an actress in our show…she really led me to the belief that sometimes it’s not even about how you get into the conversation, it’s just literally about sitting there,” Mindich said.
Andrew Barth Feldman on why he wanted to play Evan Hansen
Evan Hansen, whose original name was Dennis according to Mindich, is a 17-year-old boy who struggles to connect with peers and potential love interests, but mostly with his mom. Andrew Barth Feldman, the 17-year-old who currently plays Evan Hansen, admitted that the show is also largely about the connection to him as well.
While Feldman doesn’t struggle with mental health issues himself, he admits that he could relate to Evan as a teenager growing up in the age of social media.
“When I saw ‘Dear Evan Hansen’ for the first time, it was as I was beginning to cope with all of these factors of life that you have to deal with as you’re growing up and I felt very alone in it like everyone does,” Feldman said.
Feldman agreed that the musical is actually about connecting with those around you, as opposed to a story just about mental health.
“[‘Dear Evan Hansen’] showed me, just like it shows everyone that sees it, everyone that feels alone, everyone that’s ever felt alone, that they aren’t.”
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