Dear Evan Hansen

Paul, JustinPasek, Benj Levenson, Steven

Primary Category: Literature / Plays

Genre: Play

Annotated by:
Glass, Guy
  • Date of entry: Apr-24-2017
  • Last revised: Apr-24-2017


Evan Hansen, an awkward, lonely high school senior, struggles with Social Anxiety Disorder. On the advice of his therapist, he pens supportive letters to himself: “Dear Evan Hansen, Today is going to be an amazing day, and here’s why.  Because today all you have to do is be yourself. But also confident.”   

Connor, another loner student, picks up one of Evan’s letters and, several days later, commits suicide.  When Connor’s parents find the letter, they take it to be their son’s suicide note.  Instead of dissuading them, Evan concocts an account of a close friendship with the classmate he barely knew, creating an email trail. Connor’s family swallows the story.

As Evan gains the attention he has always craved and comes out of his shell, he finds that he cannot stop himself.   He founds the “Connor Project,” an organization dedicated to preserving his “friend’s” memory where he shares his musings on social media:  “Have you ever felt like nobody was there?  Have you ever felt forgotten in the middle of nowhere?  Have you ever felt like you could disappear?  Like you could fall, and no one would hear? ...Well, let that lonely feeling wash away…Lift your head and look around.  You will be found.  You will be found.”  Once Evan’s postings go viral, the Connor Project becomes a veritable industry, with a budget, and fans who look to it for inspiration.  As the stakes rise, the Project can flourish only by being fed more lies. 


Dear Evan Hansen is a critically acclaimed musical that opened on Broadway in December 2016.  It is loosely based on an incident experienced by one of its creators (Benj Pasek) while in high school, involving the suicide of a fellow student. The pop-rock score may not have you leaving the theater humming the tunes.  However, the show has more substance than is typical in commercial music theater, and the authors approach the teen suicide subject with great sensitivity. Like Next to Normal (2009), a show about bipolar disorder, this is a non-exploitative take on the effects of mental illness on individuals, families, and in this case, society.  

To dismiss Dear Evan Hansen as mere pop psychology is to ignore how it fulfills a need for approachable material on suicide.  This is borne out by the fact that its sell-out audiences are comprised of young people who do not usually go to the theater. What’s more, parents are attending with their teenage children and using this as a springboard for discussion.

There are multiple layers to the social media motif beyond the show’s plot.  The Broadway production sports screens that display posts and tweets.  In addition, the show’s promoters have encouraged promoting the show on social media platforms (#youwillbefound).  The underlying message seems to be that technology is a double-edged sword with the potential to both alienate us and bring us closer together.


The book of Dear Evan Hansen will be published by Theatre Communications Group in October 2017.  The album, currently available as either a CD or a download, contains a booklet with the texts of the songs, but not the complete dialogue.   

The Broadway production’s website includes links to interesting articles and reviews.   

Resources on suicide include, "a collection of portraits and stories of suicide attempt survivors.” 
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides both a website ( and a telephone hotline. 


Theatre Communications Group

Place Published

New York