Dear Camp Broadway Readers,
Broadway’s Tony-winning, deeply moving musical sensation DEAR EVAN HANSEN has created a base of countless fans—teens and adults alike—around the globe.
The show follows socially awkward teen Evan Hansen as he navigates his way through complex and emotional themes of love, suicide, loss, and self-acceptance. It is hailed by many teen audience members as a musical that feels most relatable to their own social issues and personal experiences.
I had the pleasure of speaking with a few members of the Broadway cast of DEAR EVAN HANSEN about the lessons that they’ve learned from this show, and the messages they hope to convey through their performances.
Check out the advice of Rachel Bay Jones (Heidi Hansen), Jennifer Laura Thompson (Cynthia Murphy), and Michael Park (Larry Murphy) about pursuing theater, dealing with grief, and finding love among family and friends:
CB: DEAR EVAN HANSEN deals with very emotional themes. What is your advice for teens who want to pursue musical theater, and may have to navigate such complex emotions onstage?
Mr. Park: What I can tell teens is this: if you want to act, act. If you want to write, write. If you want to sing, sing. There are plenty of avenues for you out there. I’m a product of community theater. Community theater is one of the best outlets for teens if you want to get into this business. Your school theater is a great place to start, too. Try it out. Go to productions. Volunteer. Go for auditions, access the real emotions that you’re feeling and bring them out onstage, and see what happens!
CB: What is your message to parent survivors of teen suicide?
Ms. Thompson: In DEAR EVAN HANSEN, I had to find a way to justify my character getting over the loss of such a huge part of her life onstage. Forgiveness is the main thing. Forgiving yourself for what mistakes you think you’ve made along the way. It’s a common theme when someone experiences a loss: parents have to find a way to forgive that person—as well as themselves— in order to move on, and discover that there’s still meaning in life. And it’s been a rough road for my character, believe me. It takes her a long time to determine that forgiveness is necessary. She also needs to remember that she’s still the mom of a single child, and has to continue parenting that child to her fullest ability, through her grief. I believe that she and the rest of her family impacted Evan’s life and health by the way they handled their grief. And so, on stage—and in real life—we all need to try to be kind, forgive ourselves, forgive one another, and use loss for greater good, to help others.
CB: Onstage, you portray such a powerful performance of a struggling single mom. What is your advice for teen children of single moms dealing with life in the real world?
Ms. Jones: Wow, that’s a great question! My advice is to just understand that your mother—all of us mothers, really, are always trying our best, that we’re human, and that we love you and we’re trying to be the best mother that we can be for you. This is true for single moms as well as moms with partners. It’s always true: we may not know how to do everything, but we’re trying our best. I’ve been a single mom, and I know how challenging it can be. But all mothers are trying so, so hard. So, remember: we’re trying our best, we’re imperfect, but we love you!
Remember, Camp Broadway readers: you are loved, you matter, and “You Will Be Found.”
And if you ever feel like you need someone to listen when you’re going through a tough time, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) and Crisis Text Line (text HOME to 741741) are always here to help.
DEAR EVAN HANSEN tour dates are out now: more information can be found here!
A huge thank-you to Rachel Bay Jones, Jennifer Laura Thompson, and Michael Park, from Anna Allport and Camp Broadway, for this meaningful interview opportunity!