‘Evan Hansen’ actor draws on his high school experience for his role – The Mercury News


In “Dear Evan Hansen”, the high school students go to great lengths to fit in with their peers, making up stories and relationships to help them through their treacherous teenage years. Ciara Alyse Harris, who plays Alana Beck in the musical’s North American touring company, says she can understand her character’s desire to carve out a place for herself in her high school hierarchy.

“Her #1 thing is that she is an overcompensator. She has to show everyone that she is the smartest person in the room. I can definitely relate to that,” says Harris, who is black. “I went to an almost all-white school and felt like I had to prove my worth.”

Harris and the rest of the “Evan Hansen” cast will take the stage at the San Jose Center for the Performing Arts June 8-19, when Broadway San Jose premieres the show in South Bay.

Harris has been on the tour since 2018, resuming it last November after a pandemic hiatus, during which she and her castmates conducted lines virtually. “Evan Hansen” is his first North American tour.

During the show’s hiatus, Harris also maintained a blog and podcast, which she said was “really informative and wholesome.

“It was really good for me to try to do other things,” she adds.

Despite following her dialogue and musical numbers, Harris says she still faced a learning curve when returning to her role.

“The lines never really leave you, but the blockage does,” she adds. “I’ve been on the show for so long, and it was really fun to get to it in a different way.”

Harris recently received a real-life reminder of high school life when she taught a teen masterclass.

“They’re dealing with the life that I claim to have on stage,” she says. “In high school, we all read the same book and everything means the same to all of us.”

“Evan Hansen” was inspired by the experiences of Benj Pasek, the show’s lyricist, who watched his high school classmates tell false stories of being part of the life of a student who died of a drug overdose. The show’s main character inadvertently creates a bond between himself and Connor, a college student who committed suicide, causing Connor’s parents to kiss Evan in hopes of better understanding their late son and creating tension between Evan. and his mother.

For Harris, this family dynamic is an important part of the show.

“A lot of parents may feel like they don’t know how to help their children,” she says. “I think the show gives them some great tools to help out.”

“Dear Evan Hansen” runs June 8-19 at the San Jose Center for the Performing Arts, 255 S. Almaden Blvd. Tickets cost between $35 and $175 at broadwaysanjose.com or 408-792-4111, or at the San Jose Civic Box Office, 150 W. San Carlos St.

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