Q&A with Phoebe Koyabe from ‘Dear Evan Hansen’

National Touring cast of 'Dear Evan Hansen'

National Touring cast of 'Dear Evan Hansen'

As the current touring cast of Dear Evan Hansen gets ready for their final few shows on the road, we sat down with Phoebe Koyabe who plays Alana Beck in the show. Announced back in mid-August, Phoebe will be moving to the Broadway production on October 22.

 

TPAC: First off, Nashville is so excited to have “Dear Evan Hansen” in Music City! Have you ever been to Nashville before? Is there anything you want to see or do while you’re in town?

Phoebe: I’ve never been and I couldn’t be more excited! Nashville is such an enormous music center so I obviously can’t miss the Musicians Hall of Fame! I’ve got a soft spot for gentle hikes by myself and I’ve heard that Radnor Lake is a great hiking spot so I will most likely go for a stroll if I have the time. Lastly, I love guitars so guitar center security might have to physically pick me up and put me outside to get me to leave!

TPAC: What can you tell us about your character, Alana? 

Phoebe: Ugh, I honestly could talk about her for hours. She is much more complex than a lot of people think. It’s an odd dichotomy between her very assertive, in your face, “go getter” personality that she presents in contrast with the stark reality of her loneliness. I can really assimilate with her. I was exactly like her growing up, and even now I am still struggling to stop putting up this facade of happiness all the time and be true and real to myself.

For me, I see a much deeper message underneath her personality. Being the “strong woman” especially in today’s society, is hard. If you’re sure of yourself then you’re bossy and irritating, but if you are more reserved then you “don’t speak up for yourself enough”. It can be a very tough path to navigate as a young woman and I really feel like you see Alana in a time where she is struggling to determine how she should present herself to be taken seriously. She is the reminder for every audience member to check up on your strong friends because no one ever does.

Phoebe Koyabe plays Alana Beck in Dear Evan Hansen

Phoebe Koyabe

TPAC: DEH has such a powerful message not only for teenagers, but for everyone. What has the reaction been from people across the country? Do you find it differs from city to city?

Phoebe: I have definitely noticed that I received more messages in some cities we stop in. I think that culture plays a huge part in acceptance and some cultures are more accepting than others. However, the reactions we have received have been overwhelmingly positive overall. It’s been really rewarding to receive messages from people who say just how much this show means to them, or that they were able to find themselves in my character and feel seen for the first time.

TPAC: As an 18 year old who grew up in the age of social media, do you find yourself relating to the challenges Alana and the rest of the characters face in the show?

Phoebe: Absolutely. Online challenges such as “send me someone’s name and I will post what I really think about them” have led to suspensions and detentions nationwide. It used to be that if you were bullied at school, you could go home and have a moment of peace. Now with social media, the bullying never stops and for a lot of people, not having social media isn’t an option. It’s one of the first things universities and employers will look at to get an idea of who you are. It’s very easy to fall into the trap of negativity, I have done it myself and I have seen others fall prey to it as well.  While social media can be such a positive tool for change, it can turn very ugly, very fast.

TPAC: What’s one piece of advice you would give to your younger self?

Phoebe: It doesn’t matter. None of this matters. None of it ever will.

I have wasted so much time grieving or panicking over things that never mattered. I look back now and just think of where I could be if I had done something productive with that time instead. No one ever cared that you got an A- instead of an A+ on your test, nothing bad actually happened from the rumor that girl started, who cares if those people hate you.. you will never see them again, and most importantly? You are beautiful! Inside and out. So please, eat that slice of cake, don’t worry about putting makeup on, and just focus on being a kid because being an adult is hard and you have so much time to grow up later.

TPAC: This will be most people’s first time seeing DEH. What was your initial reaction when you saw it for the first time? What made you want to be a part of the show?

Phoebe: Now I won’t lie, I actually had never seen the show till a couple days into rehearsal! Under the circumstances, my first time seeing the show was from a much more technical view point. Now however, I think the easiest way to sum it up would be one of my favorite quotes from one of my favorite animated shows.

“There’s no such thing as bad guys and good guys! We’re all just guys! Who do good stuff, sometimes. And bad stuff, sometimes. And all we can do is try to do less bad stuff and more good stuff. But you’re never going to be good! Because you’re not bad! So you need to stop using that as an excuse.” – Bojack Horseman, S5 E12, “The Stopped Show”

Every single character in Dear Evan Hansen means well. There are no villains. There are no superheroes. There are just eight humans, on one stage, performing life.

I think that’s really beautiful.

 

Dear Evan Hansen will make its TPAC debut September 10-15. Limited tickets remain at TPAC.org