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How ‘Dear Evan Hansen’ brought social media to Broadway

Producer Stacey Mindich and book writer Steven Levenson talk with Kara Swisher on Recode Decode.

Dear Evan Hansen, broadway, musical

The hit broadway musical “Dear Evan Hansen” spins an internet-infused story of a socially anxious teenager who tells a big lie that spirals out of control. But on the latest episode of Recode Decode, hosted by Kara Swisher, producer Stacey Mindich and book writer Steven Levenson said the show is connecting because the web makes social hermits of us all.

“[It’s] the paradox of a world where we are incredibly interconnected, and yet isolation feels at an unprecedented level,” Levenson said.

Mindich noted that, behind the scenes, the creators of “Dear Evan Hansen” refer to social media as “either the backdrop or the ninth character.” Rather than making fun of how people use it, the show treats the ubiquity of tech as a given and explores how it affects all of the characters — not just the young ones.

“The weird thing about social media is, we’ve all become high schoolers,” Levenson said. “We’re all looking and seeing how much fun everyone else is having.”

“I went on Instagram to post a month ago, and I was getting 21 likes here or there from people who know me really well,” Mindich added. “And then one day, Laura Dreyfuss, who’s in our show, liked one of my pictures and I understood everything. It was the most thrilling moment of my social media life, that somebody I thought was cool and young liked my picture.”

You can listen to Recode Decode on Apple Podcasts, Google Play Music, TuneIn, Stitcher and SoundCloud.

In addition to talking about social media in the context of the play’s story, “Dear Evan Hansen” has tapped into a passionate fanbase online in both of the cities — Washington, D.C., and New York — in which it’s run. Mindich said the producers have alerted fans early when new batches of tickets go on sale — and, more uniquely, a lucky few are literally a part of the show.

“Our key art shows Evan’s torso, with his arm in a cast,” Mindich said. “You don’t see his head, but you see a sea of faces surrounding him. In the beginning of the ad campaign, those were stock faces that we bought. But we went out to our fans and we told them exactly how to take a picture of themselves and send their faces in to us, and now that mosaic is 100 percent our fan’s faces.”

And throughout the show, images are projected on screens surrounding the set to simulate the internet. Fans are there, too, Mindich said.

“On our stage, at the end of Act One, in a number called ‘You Will Be Found,’ the internet goes viral,” she said. “People are holding up signs that say #YouWillBeFound ... All of those people are real people, too. We asked our fan group to send us videos of themselves. These people are from the age of 18 to the age of 80-something, from all over the world, and they’re in our show.”

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