“It’s an exciting time for theater,” says Laura Dreyfuss on a recent afternoon, shortly before her call time at the Music Box Theatre. Ever since “Dear Evan Hansen” opened on Broadway in December and became the hardest theater ticket in town to obtain, downtime for the young actress has become a rarity.
The show tells the story of Evan Hansen, played by Ben Platt, whose life spirals drastically in the aftermath of a little white lie and a death of a classmate in Evan’s high school. The production boasts music by Benj Pasek and Justin Pau, the duo behind “La La Land,” and has garnered unusual pop culture attention — perhaps buoyed by the success of a little show called “Hamilton.”
Dreyfuss, who plays the sister of the deceased classmate — and love interest to Evan — is first to recognize the Hamilton effect. “I feel like ‘Hamilton’ kind of raised the bar,” she says, “and made everyone realize ‘Oh, theater can be really good if we, like, want it to be.’”
WWD: How did you get into acting?
Laura Dreyfuss: My oldest sister was an actor before I was, and she’s 10 years older, so I grew up watching her do it. It was like I was six years old and acting was just a very clear, obvious choice.
WWD: Were you in theater from then on?
L.D.: Not professionally. My parents were very kind and able to let me explore it, but it was more of a hobby. I did a lot of things growing up: I was a horseback rider, I swam, my dad was my softball coach for years. But theater was always my biggest passion. And then, I think, I finally started to take it seriously in high school when I realized I couldn’t be happy doing anything else.
WWD: How did you then get cast in “Dear Evan Hansen?”
L.D.: I had auditioned back when they were doing the workshop, when they didn’t even have a title for it yet. Ironically, I was screen testing for the show “Glee,” which I ended up doing in between the reading and then the D.C. production [of “Dear Evan Hansen”], but I remember having to fly on a red eye to screen test, and then come back for the day of the presentation of the workshop so that I could do both.
WWD: Why do you think the themes of Internet personas and the impact of social media are resonating so strongly?
L.D.: Because it really depicts correctly what it’s like to be living right now in America, with the way we experience social media and how that has become this added character into our lives, which is pretty fascinating. Even the most self-aware people have to constantly examine their use of social media and what they use it for and why they use it for whatever reason. So I think when people see the show, they really see themselves interacting in the world, and it’s showing to them in a way that they’ve never experienced before, and it deals with a lot of issues that I think most shows are afraid to deal with.
I think it’s risky, and it’s not afraid to talk about things that are maybe a little controversial or things that we might not necessarily want to talk about, but it’s at the same time beautiful because it opens up this conversation that needs to happen.
WWD: Has it shifted the way you view social media?
L.D.: Oh, completely. I’m constantly aware of why I’m sharing something, and the positive impacts that it could have, as well as the negative — because there are two sides of it —and I think the show really correctly represents that. But one of the major things for me is when a celebrity dies, or when there’s a tragedy, I have to wonder why I’m sharing this tragedy, or why do I feel like I need to be a part of it, and insert myself into it. You want to question, “OK, why am I making this about me?” And, it’s interesting to see people doing both of those.