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

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

Wow, look! An actual teenager playing a teenager!

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

Suicidal thoughts are thought of in such black-and-white terms. 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 there are some stuck in the gray area of 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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The Selflessness Of Self-Care

It is OK to nurture yourself before nurturing others.

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Do you find yourself prioritizing taking care of others before taking care of yourself? I do.

Let me introduce myself. My name is Saiarchana, and I am a nurturer. Nurturing people is something that has almost become second-nature to me because I am so accustomed to doing it. I love uplifting others and being there to give them support when they are in need. I love giving support to others so much that I am even majoring in Psychology. Nurturing is something that is incredibly important to me. I nurture others because I don't want anyone to feel alone or unsupported.

But, sometimes I forget to nurture myself.

I used to believe that taking care of others involved sacrifice. This kind of sacrifice was my own energy and self-care. I lived under the belief that by pulling away and taking care of myself, I would be labeled as selfish. So, I kept on nurturing others around me.

Until I broke down.

I was giving so much support and care to others, that I had forgotten about me. I am also a very important person in my life. My relationship with myself is incredibly important, and I had forgotten that. I was so focused on pouring love and care to others, that I had forgotten to water myself with those same sustaining forces. I was getting drained and worn out from nurturing and giving love to so many people around me because I was neglecting myself.

When I realized what was happening, I finally understood: Love is not starvation. I do not need to starve myself in order to feed others. I do not need to neglect my self-care in order to care for and give love to the people around me. Nurturing others does not equate to neglecting myself. Because, once I neglect myself, I end up not being able to show up fully for the people in my life.

I read a quote by an influencer named Allie Michelle. Michelle said:

"Taking care of yourself is selfless. An empty well cannot give water to a village."

When I read this, it was as if my eyes developed clearer vision. I recognized that I believed that self-care was selfish when actually it is one of the most selfless things I can ever do for this world. When I am able to take care of myself, I am at a healthier and stable position to give care to others. When I give from a place of lack, I end up lacking more. Giving my energy to others when I am in desperate need of recharging my own energy will end up making me feel emptier. It is like the good analogy from Michelle's quote. I cannot give from an empty source. When I forget to give love and care to myself, I reach a point where there is nothing left to give to others, because I haven't maintained a solid foundation for myself.

Giving care to others should be a fulfilling experience, not a draining one. In order for it to be a fulfilling experience, I need to make sure I am not giving from a place of emptiness. I need to nurture myself because doing so will give me a stable foundation. So, I finally understand the key to nurturing others: making sure I am nurturing myself first.

So, what now?

I am going to continue giving love and care to others. But this time, I am going to make sure I am nurturing myself too.

I hope you nurture yourself too. You are worthy of the love and care you give to others.

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