Having A 16-Year-Old Star In 'Dear Evan Hansen' Is So Necessary

Why Having A 16-Year-Old Star In 'Dear Evan Hansen' Is Necessary

Wow, look! An actual teenager playing a teenager!


The hit Broadway show "Dear Evan Hansen" has just recast two of its lead roles: Evan Hansen and Zoe Murphy. In the show, those two characters are teenagers: they are aged 17 and 16, respectively. The recast is such a big deal because...

Wait for it......

The replacements are teenagers!

That's right! Actual teenagers are playing teenagers!

Zoe Murphy, a junior in high school, is now portrayed by Mallory Bechtel, who is only 18 years old.

Evan Hansen, a senior in high school, is now portrayed by Andrew Feldman, who enters Broadway with a lead role at a whopping 16 years old.

16 years old. He is younger than his character.

This news is fantastic! It's about time more teenagers play teenagers on stage and in film. While you often need a degree in theatre or acting to make it onto such a prestigious stage, no one can capture teen angst and first love quite like those currently experiencing it.

The show is very teenager-heavy. Five out of the eight characters are teenagers! Serious issues are also themes of the show. The musical deals with depression, anxiety, absent parents, therapy, financial struggles, self-worth, and, most emphatically, suicide. Each teenage character deals with at least one of these, and they are seen most clearly in two characters: Evan and Connor.

Evan struggles with depression, anxiety, self-worth, financial difficulty, an absent father, and suicidal thoughts.

Connor lost the battle with depression and committed suicide.

Seeing Andrew Feldman deal with these issues on stage brings the message a little closer to home, almost unsettlingly close. He is a 16-year-old boy playing a 17-year-old boy on the verge of losing himself. When Feldman has to break down and sob and lash out on stage, the audience can understand Evan a little better. Because the actor is nearly the same age as his character, we might forget the difference.

Evan was originally played by Ben Platt, who started playing him at roughly 23. While that is not a terrible age gap, it is better a teenager play a teenager. You can impersonate a teenager, but after you leave those awkward years, it is just not the same.

Having a 16-year-old play Evan makes the audience believe it is real.

When you watch this teenager have a panic attack and relive his suicide attempt and fall in love and lose everything on that stage, you see every teenager in him. When he jumbles his words talking to his crush, you see yourself at that age. When Evan and his mother fight, you remember your disagreements with your parents. This is very real. This is happening.

When an actor is significantly older than his character, we tend to separate the two. Part of it is physical appearance. You can tell the difference between a 25-year-old and a 17-year-old. You see the biceps, the height, the filled out proportions, and the carefully shaved face and you remind yourself that he is in no danger. He is an adult, not a teenager, and he is just a character in a script. But when the actor and character are only a year apart, the line between reality and fiction is faint.

You want to reach out and hug him when he cries. After all, he's still a child. He has a baby face and an innocent smile and he's so small and gangling. He's so young, and he has his whole life ahead, and he has so much to live for and - oh.

So does Evan.

Now you understand. You watch this teenager nearly die on stage, and you realize the impact. He is a child. He has his whole life ahead of him. And then you understand the struggle the characters face, and you appreciate it. Everything is clear. They are on the same emotional level and in the same places in life. They are more alike than you would like to think.

You finally understand the character.

Having teen stars portray teen characters is the saving grace of "Dear Evan Hansen."

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To The Person Who Feels Suicidal But Doesn't Want To Die

Suicidal thoughts are not black and white.

Everyone assumes that if you have suicidal thoughts that means you want to die.

From an outside perspective, suicidal thoughts are rarely looked into deeper than the surface level. Either you have suicidal thoughts and you want to die, or you don't have suicidal thoughts and you want to live. What most people don't understand is that people live in between those two statements, I for one am one of them.

I've had suicidal thoughts since I was a kid.

My first recollection of it was when I came home after school one day and got in trouble, and while I was just sitting in the dining room I kept thinking, “I wonder what it would be like to take a knife from the kitchen and just shove it into my stomach." I didn't want to die, or even hurt myself for that matter. But those thoughts haven't stopped since.

I've thought about going into the bathroom and taking every single pill I could find and just drifting to sleep and never waking back up, I've thought about hurting myself to take the pain away, just a few days ago on my way to work I thought about driving my car straight into a tree. But I didn't. Why? Because even though that urge was so strong, I didn't want to die. I still don't, I don't want my life to end.

I don't think I've ever told anyone about these feelings. I don't want others to worry because the first thing anyone thinks when you tell them you have thoughts about hurting or killing yourself is that you're absolutely going to do it and they begin to panic. Yes, I have suicidal thoughts, but I don't want to die.

It's a confusing feeling, it's a scary feeling.

When the depression takes over you feel like you aren't in control. It's like you're drowning.

Every bad memory, every single thing that hurt you, every bad thing you've ever done comes back and grabs you by the ankle and drags you back under the water just as you're about the reach the surface. It's suffocating and not being able to do anything about it.

The hardest part is you never know when these thoughts are going to come. Some days you're just so happy and can't believe how good your life is, and the very next day you could be alone in a dark room unable to see because of the tears welling up in your eyes and thinking you'd be better off dead.

You feel alone, you feel like a burden to everyone around you, you feel like the world would be better off without you. I wish it was something I could just turn off but I can't, no matter how hard I try.

These feelings come in waves.

It feels like you're swimming and the sun is shining and you're having a great time until a wave comes and sucks you under into the darkness of the water. No matter how hard you try to reach the surface again a new wave comes and hits you back under again, and again, and again.

And then it just stops.

But you never know when the next wave is going to come. You never know when you're going to be sucked back under.

I always wondered if I was the only one like this.

It didn't make any sense to me, how did I think about suicide so often but not want to die? But I was thinking about it in black and white, I thought I wasn't allowed to have those feelings since I wasn't going to act on them. But then I read articles much like this one and I realized I'm not the only one. Suicidal thoughts aren't black and white, and my feelings are valid.

To everyone who feels this way, you aren't alone.

I thought I was for the longest time, I thought I was the only one who felt this way and I didn't understand how I could feel this way. But please, I implore you to talk to someone, anyone, about the way you're feeling, whether it be a family member, significant other, a friend, a therapist.

My biggest mistake all these years was never telling anyone how I feel in fear that they would either brush me off because “who could be suicidal but not want to die?" or panic and try to commit me to a hospital or something. Writing this article has been the greatest feeling of relief I've felt in a long time, talking about it helps. I know it's scary to tell people how you're feeling, but you're not alone and you don't have to go through this alone.

Suicidal thoughts aren't black and white, your feelings are valid, and there are people here for you. You are not alone.

If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline — 1-800-273-8255

Cover Image Credit: BengaliClicker

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We Need To Recognize That Happiness Is The Journey, Not The Destination

Stop waiting to reach the peak, and recognize the climb.


I went for a run today and had an epiphany. This epiphany may just apply to myself alone, but I honestly feel that many people will be able to see themselves in it as much as I do.

My epiphany is that there are two forms of happiness. There is feeling happy, and then there is the recognization of happiness, and no, those aren't the same thing.

We spend so much time searching for happiness. Many of us dedicate our lives to finding happiness, and we believe that to be the best, or even only, way to live. Yet, somehow, we still feel like there's something missing in our lives. That's because we spend too much time looking for things to make us happy, and not enough time recognizing when we are experiencing happiness in the process.

See the thing is that feeling happy is an emotion. You are happy when you are surprised with concert tickets to your favorite band, when your parents tell you they're getting a dog, when you see that you got an A on an exam you were stressing about, and so on. These are fleeting moments of emotion. They don't last for long and don't contribute to your status of living a happy life.

Feeling happy is not a state of being. When someone asks you, “Are you happy?" you think of what you have in your life that is happy. Whether it be the college you attend, the friends you have, the dog you love, or the hobbies you really enjoy. When someone asks you that question, you respond with whether or not you believe yourself to be living a happy life. You don't respond with what current state of being you are in.

Then there is happiness. Happiness once again is not a state of being. Happiness, as I've recently realized, is a process. Happiness is taking a road trip with your friends when you stop at sketchy gas stations to pee and get snacks and then you all fight over who has aux. Happiness is seeing your mom after a month and telling her all about the frat dude who you met last weekend and the professor who you can't stand. Happiness is actually going on that run that you told yourself you would go on, even if it sucks.

Our problem in our search for happiness is that we expect it to show us a big flashy sign saying “Here it is!" when in reality a small sign has been there multiple times and you just haven't noticed.

In order to completely experience your processes of happiness, you need to acknowledge them.

If someone asked me right now, “Are you happy?" I would say yes, and not because I am happy at this moment, but because I am proud of myself for going on that run 10 minutes ago.

There was a point on my run when I thought to myself, “Wow, I said I was going to go for a run and I actually did. I'm running right now. This is happiness." Those are the exact words I thought: “This is happiness." And now is the moment where you, the reader, think to yourself: “Hold up, she was running and— happy???" No. I did not want to be on that run, I was out of shape from a weekend visiting friends and I was exhausted from a long bus ride home.

See I wasn't experiencing the emotion of happy, but I was able to acknowledge that what I was doing was a process of happiness. Acknowledging in the moment that I was experiencing that process was mindset-changing for me.

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