Photo by Christopher Nelson for Premera Blue Cross.
Premera Blue Cross teamed up with Seattle Theatre Group (STG) to bring the story of Evan Hansen to high school students across Washington state.
Dear Evan Hansen is more than a nod to the complexities of growing up in a digital world. For many students, the Tony Award®-Winning Best Musical brings to life challenges they face on a daily basis: creating relationships, finding identity, living in a digital world and managing mental health. This experience invited the students to engage in open dialogue on these themes.
"On-stage performances create a special opportunity for Premera to bring our customers and broader communities into important conversations around topics like mental health,” said Kelly Heitlauf, events and sponsorships manager for Premera.
At the show
When the buses pulled up to STG’s Paramount Theatre on the day of the show, the excitement was high. Nearly 3,000 students from Washington public schools crowded into their seats inside.
By the end of the show, the cheers, laughter and standing ovation was evidence enough of the value of this arts experience.
"For so many of my students, this is their first opportunity to experience professional theater in person,” said Rebecca Neil, a Seattle high school teacher. “Attending this type of performance would never have been feasible without the support of the Seattle Theater Group. I am so excited for this opportunity for my students to become active participants in the arts.”
Engaging students and educators
To prepare schools for Dear Evan Hansen, STG launched The Digital Education Program: Power to Inspire– a curriculum focused on engaging students and educators in healthy conversations around the show.
Inspiration for the curriculum came from the Dear Evan Hansen hit song, “You Will Be Found.” Students translated their emotions from the song into letters, poems and art pieces.
Chief Sealth International High School student Shianne spoke about what inspired her art piece, “The [“You Will Be Found”] song I listened to and the thought of my friends, one friend in particular actually who has been going through rough times. Also the thought of some of the things I've gone through so far.”
"I can express feelings and emotions through music, through my own words when writing,” shared Kaia, a student who wrote her own piece of music and attended the show with the Boys and Girls Club of Bellevue. “I hope that [my] song can let other people know how much people care about them and how everyone is important. I hope that after they realize that, they can be inspired to help others overcome their own struggles.”
Teachers and school counselors also attended trainings to help them approach these important conversations with their students.
“Every opportunity to educate our youth on teen issues is an opportunity to build community and better ourselves as people,” said Masao Yamada, director of high school programs at Boys and Girls Club of Bellevue. “I'm always excited for growth and sustainability. We have been speaking with our group on how they can implement this program in their communities and in the schools who were not able to be a part of this incredible opportunity.”
To get involved or learn more about STG community programs, check out their Education and Community Programs.
Kate Flynn is in the Brand Strategy team at Premera Blue Cross.