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The Metaphor of the Cast

On my birthday, we saw Dear Evan Hansen as part of our Saenger Theater season. (It wasn't actually at the Saenger because the Saenger is on lock down due to the building that collapsed in the CBD. So they re-lo'ed us to the Mahalia Jackson Theater. Which is fine. MJT has its own parking lot so that's a bonus. But I'm not 100% on the acoustics in there. The quiet parts of the show were really hard to hear, and I remember that being an issue when we saw Wicked there soon after we moved here.)

Anyhoo, Dear Evan Hansen. This show has been ON MY LIST. We tried to see it in New York a couple times but the tickets were so incredibly high I had a hard time justifying it. I mean, I already talked him into Hamilton Broadway tickets. Twice. So I was super excited to finally see this.

And I've been thinking about it ever since we saw it. Shows often do that to me. Hamilton. Cabaret. Come From Away. What's really stuck with me about Evan Hansen is the symbolism of the show and how seamlessly they tied it together.

Now, I am the first to admit that I am HORRIBLE about recognizing symbolism in TV and movies. That seems absurd for someone who is literally a writer by profession but keep in mind, I do not write fiction. Not professionally. Not personally. Not at all. Don't read poetry. Don't get any of the religious references in Any Given Sunday. I love Tennessee Williams at face value. I have no choice. It's all I see.

So the fact that ALL THESE METAPHORS in Evan Hansen are lingering with me drives me to write about it. (Writing it down is how I quiet the ongoing narrative in my head.) If you're hoping for some kind of high quality technical analysis please be advised that this draft has convinced me that I am at least ten years past the expiration date of any hopes I might have had for graduate school.

[SPOILERS ahead]

The CAST as a metaphor for FALLING IN THE FOREST

When the show opens, Evan Hansen has his arm in a cast. We learn that he fell from a tree while at his summer job at a state park. And that no one came to rescue him after the fall. In the same scene, we learn that Evan's therapist for his social anxiety has given him a writing assignment: Write letters to yourself. "Dear Evan Hansen, Today is going to be a good day! And here's why: ..."

We soon understand why. Poor Evan has no friends to speak of. He's alone and lonely and struggling. As though he's a fallen tree, and no one's noticed. (Waving Through a Window: "On the outside, always looking in / Will I ever be more than I've always been? / 'Cause I'm tap, tap, tapping on the glass / Waving through a window / When you're falling in a forest / and there's nobody around / Do you ever really crash / or even make a sound?")

So he writes his first letter. And it's not at all positive. And the school bully Connor Murphy finds it on the printer and swipes it from him.

The CAST as a metaphor for a FRIEND TO CATCH YOU

When Connor takes his own life later that day, his family finds the "Dear Evan Hansen" letter on him and assumes it's a suicide note. In a misguided attempt to make Connor's family feel better, Evan creates a fake friendship with him. Even going so far as to change the narrative of his broken arm: That Evan fell while the two of them were climbing a tree, and that Connor came to save him.

As the lie grows, it...becomes less of a lie. Connor really does come to save Evan. The two are the same, really - outsiders always looking in; one manifests as an angry bully and the other in social anxiety. We learn that Evan didn't actually fall from the tree that summer - he dropped on purpose. So both boys, feeling disconnected, tried to end their lives. Only one was successful. Connor's suicide and the Dear Evan Hansen letter created the lie that allowed Connor to catch Evan. (You Will Be Found: "Even when the dark comes crashing through / When you need a friend to carry you / And when you're broken on the ground / You will be found") Suddenly, he has the friends he's pined for; stand-in parents who pay attention to him; the girl of his dreams likes him back; he's off his meds. He has a purpose.

The CAST as a metaphor for (not) DISAPPEARING

In the show, Evan has conversations with Connor, which are essentially him talking to himself. As we've discussed, Connor and Evan are the same. So if Connor is allowed to disappear, so might Evan (Disappear: "No one deserves to be forgotten / No one deserves to fade away / No one should come and go / And have no one know / he was ever even here / No one deserves to disappear"). Evan creates The Connor Project to remember Connor...but also to make himself memorable.

In the end, Evan can't live with the lie that never should have been told. But it's true that everyone was happier because of it, and Connor's parents keep the lie a secret. Everyone's life moves on. But Connor is not forgotten. And neither will Evan be. Because Connor really did hear when he fell in the forest.

Thesis statement / three supporting paragraphs / conclusion

tbh this is like a C+ paper or maybe a B- at community college

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