Broadway songwriters Pasik and Paul visit to talk ‘Evan Hansen’


Sofia Bennetts

Last Thursday, October 11, songwriters and University of Michigan Alumni, Justin Paul and Benj Pasek visited Pioneer premiering their new novel, Dear Evan Hansen. The novel is based on the musical which follows a high school senior. After the death of one of his classmates, Evan fabricates an elaborate lie in order to bring him closer to the family of the deceased.

Pasek explains that the story behind Dear Evan Hansen comes from personal experience, saying, “When I was in high school a kid passed away. When we came back to school suddenly everyone was his friend”. Paul claims this embellishment comes partly from social media. “We are not really connected because of social media, but a part of us wants to connect with people on tragedy…We want to be connected to a community,” he says.

Many issues around mental health, such as depression, anxiety, and youth suicide are all pertinent in both the musical and the novel. Pasek explains that “There isn’t enough content on world mental health issues…So many people suffer in silence”. Making the musical into a novel allows for a greater reach to young adults who may be experiencing similar feelings. Pasek says, “We want you to be able to hold it [the novel] in your hands”.

Thousands of people deal with undiagnosed mental health issues, many of which arise in high school. Paul explains that in writing the novel, they wanted teens to realize they are not alone, “Hopefully we are writing about what its like to be in high school”.

Pasek explains that while the tale is uplifting there is also a lesson to be learned. “There is an ultimate measure of hope,” he says, “But also a very cautionary tale”. Paul stresses the idea that “You’re lovable being exactly who you are”, saying there is no need to lie to make yourself seem better.  

Throughout the event, Pasek and Paul stressed the importance of staying true to yourself. “We are heavily critical of ourselves,” says Paul, “Being you and being yourself is enough”. Pasek concludes saying “even if you don’t love yourself, someone will love you”.