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!


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.

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're thinking about hurting yourself please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or visit suicidepreventionhotline.org to live chat with someone. Help it out there and you are not alone.

Cover Image Credit: BengaliClicker

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I Stopped Maintaining My Hair Because I Could Barely Maintain My Life

Mental health and natural hair matter.


When I big chopped my hair in May of 2018, I thought that I would become what would be comparable to a chia pet. I aspired for my damaged, kinky 4C type hair to depart from me to make way for manageable coiled locks that would grow fuller and healthier at a faster rate. That day in the salon was one I will never forget. Looking in the mirror at my new tapered cut made me feel genuinely beautiful. I could see me and not the hair that I tried to hide my identity with. With the knowledge of new hair products and routines, I felt confidence in beginning my hair growth journey.

The first few months after, I noticed that my hair was thicker and had become more manageable. My new routines were paying off. Diligently applying oils and masks had helped me see results. Having shorter hair was a different but liberating experience. It was going all smooth until I got to the awkward phase. I spent hours watching YouTube videos to attempt various styles but the influencer's hair was either too long or short and never awkwardly in between as my hair was.

Later on in the year, my journey came to a halt. I was in between jobs, could barely afford to pay rent and would skip class to go to work because I needed to pay bills and rent. I was a mess and so was my hair. I stopped doing weekly conditioning routines and would let my hair matt up and not detangle properly because I was often in a rush. My anxiety caused me to twist pieces of my hair at high points of stress. I would wear wigs and attempt protective styles to prevent this but still neglected to treat the hair that was underneath. I stopped maintaining my hair because I could barely maintain myself in this hectic period of my life.


Seeing the film Nappily Ever After made me resonate with the fact that this is a common occurrence in the natural hair community. Saana Lathan portrayed a woman, Violet who used her hair as her sole identity. She displayed how she hid the damage to her natural hair to live a life for others and not herself. It wasn't until she cut her dry, damaged hair that she had she had truly blossomed into the graceful women she truly is.

Natural hair and mental health go hand in hand. Growth can be inhibited by mental health and that goes for many aspects; hair is just one of them. If one takes care of their mental health, they feel more inclined to nourish their roots as well. This is why self-care matters in the black community.

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