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
–“You Will Be Found”, from Dear Evan Hansen
I’m lucky enough to have seen more than a few of the big name stage musicals live. Rent. Les Mis. Miss Saigon. And, most recently and unbelievably, Hamilton. There’s nothing quite like it, ever. A huge auditorium with killer acoustics and live orchestra and crazy-talented actors and crowds generally hanging on every word. The energy is palpable every time, and it’s always stunning to me how hundreds, sometimes thousands, of people can get so caught up in a singular story that you lose all track of time or space and are quite literally transported somewhere else.
That my Curly Girl is growing shares this love of live musical theater is one of my greatest joys, and making the sacrifices necessary to be sure we can see a show from time to time is a priority in this house.
It’s Fall Break here in Louisville, and we were not able to travel anywhere; but, I was able to score tickets to the national touring production of Dear Evan Hansen (DEH) during its week-long engagement here.
Real quick, and with no spoilers, DEH centers around the events that unfold after the suicide of teenager Connor Murphy, predominantly told through the actions and decisions of his classmate, Evan Hansen, in the days immediately following Connor’s death. It’s utterly gut-wrenching, but not overly dramatic at all–instead, the writers of this show manged to strike a real balance of raw and gritty and, to a degree, instructive about this time we are living in–social media and anxiety and broken relationships all creating this perfect storm of anger and sadness and, eventually, hope.
Actual, real, life-saving, make-you-breathe-again, hope.
Like I said, I’ve seen some big shows. I’ve watched dancers and huge full cast scenes and amazing special effects. I’ve been blown away, several times, by what’s possible to bring to life on a stage. But I have to tell you, I’ve never experienced anything quite like the effect I watched DEH have on the couple thousand folks packed into the Kentucky Center for the Arts, especially the first act finale, “You Will Be Found.”
It’s a song that strikes straight and true to the heart of what it means to feel alone. What it means to truly believe no one cares. With a simple and somehow heart-string tearing melody, it crawls right under your skin and forces you to face the times in your life when you’ve known the very real pain of loneliness. Of believing you might not matter. Of thinking nothing will ever be okay again.
And with a very insistent and richly harmonized chorus, it also promises you that you are not, in fact, alone. That the voices screaming that you don’t matter are liars. And that all around you are people begging you to see that you will, in fact, be found.
You will be found.
In the moments this mighty chorus resolved into its closing notes, there were about 2 seconds of the very loud sound of a theater in total silence. Silence so brief, so profound, you could actually feel it. And then…thunderous applause. Thunderous. Mixed with the very audible sounds of hundreds of grown adults unable to hold back their tears. The mix of sobs and hands clapping and faces both beaming and streaming tears was truly unlike anything I have ever seen.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this–and I have come to the conclusion that DEH is having such deep effect on people because it grapples with the very things no one wants to talk about. Namely suicide–but also divorce, broken families, the way social media can warp any existence of reality but can also harness so much good. DEH does not shy away from difficult conversations around mental illness–specifically severe social anxiety–nor does it back away from the realities of single parenting, or the dysfunction a still-together-but-very-messed-up marriage can create.
Which is to say, DEH gives its audiences permission to face, even dwell in for 2.5 hours, their very worst fears and grief and insecurities and failings…but it doesn’t leave you there in the mire…it reaches down a hand, pulls you out, and says, “Ok. Yep. That was pure hell. But you’ve been found. And one day…one very blessed and grace-full day…you will be okay again.”
Many days, I feel like the world, especially my particular corner of it, i.e., the United States and its communities, is a full-on dumpster fire, in which we have lost any and all respect for the basic sacredness of life. Our failure to see in one another’s full humanity is fanning the flames of our burning in ways that terrify me. That make me afraid deep in my bones for what my precious girl is going to grow into.
But also…and (and is such an important word, y’all), you might say…there is grace. And there is DEH. And there is real and sacrificial care between neighbors. And there are people putting their lives on the line for justice. And there are voices shouting above the din that this is not the way and doing their best to redirect us to towards life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
In other words, there are people seeking those who need to be found Every. Damn. Day. And I believe that in this lies our great hope.
Maybe you feel lost right now. Maybe right next to you is someone trying desperately to help you see that you’ve actually been found all along. Maybe you’ve got some strength to go searching for someone who needs finding. Maybe you have a voice to use, a talent to share, a way of helping people see that no matter what, they are part of you, because the beauty of our humanity is this: We need each other.
We need each other.
We need each other.
We need each other.
And in the space between…we are found.