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Dear Evan Hansen is a stage musical with music and lyrics by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, and book by Steven Levenson. The musical opened on Broadway at the Music Box Theatre in December 2016, after its world premiere at the Arena Stage in Washington, D.C. in July 2015 and an Off-Broadway production at Second Stage Theatre in March to May 2016. At the 71st Tony Awards, it was nominated for nine awards, winning six, including Best Musical, Best Score, Best Actor in a Musical for Ben Platt, and Best Featured Actress in a Musical for Rachel Bay Jones.
|Dear Evan Hansen|
Broadway promotional poster
|Premiere||July 10, 2015: Arena Stage, Washington|
2018 US Tour
|Awards||Tony Award for Best Musical|
Tony Award for Best Book of a Musical
Tony Award for Best Original Score
Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album
Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Lyrics
Obie Award for Musical Theatre
Drama League Award for Outstanding Production of a Broadway or Off-Broadway Production
The musical opened on Broadway at the Music Box Theatre in December 2016, after its world premiere at the Arena Stage in Washington, D.C. in July 2015 and an Off-Broadway production at Second Stage Theatre in March to May 2016.
At the 71st Tony Awards, it was nominated for nine awards, winning six, including Best Musical, Best Score, Best Actor in a Musical for Ben Platt, and Best Featured Actress in a Musical for Rachel Bay Jones.
The musical has its origins in an incident that took place during Pasek's high school years at Friends' Central School. The musical "takes the notion of a teenager, ... Evan Hansen, who invents an important role for himself in a tragedy that he did not earn."
Evan Hansen is a teenager who struggles to make friends. His therapist recommends that he write letters to himself detailing what will be good about each day. Before the first day of his senior year in high school, his mother, Heidi, suggests that he makes new friends by asking people to sign the cast on his arm, which he broke by falling out of a tree over the summer.
Across town, the wealthy Murphy family—Cynthia, Larry, and their children Zoe and Connor—sit down to breakfast. Zoe and Larry berate Connor for getting high before school, while Cynthia struggles with the fact that her family is falling apart. The two mothers wonder simultaneously how to connect with their sons ("Anybody Have a Map?").
At school, Evan runs into Alana, a precocious but somewhat self-absorbed classmate, and Jared, his only (family) friend. Both Alana and Jared notice his broken arm, but neither signs his cast. Evan then runs into Connor, who interprets Evan's awkwardness as making fun of him, resulting in Connor's pushing Evan to the ground. Connor's sister Zoe, whom Evan has a crush on, feels obligated to apologize for her brother's behavior. Evan wonders if this is his destiny—to be ignored and an outcast—for the rest of his life ("Waving Through a Window").
Evan writes himself another letter. He states he has given up on having a good year and wonders whether anyone would notice if he were not there. He remarks that all his hope is now pinned on Zoe since his crush on her is the only thing that brings him happiness ("Waving Through a Window" (Reprise #1)). While printing the letter in the school's computer lab, he encounters Connor again, now much more subdued than he was in the morning, who offers to sign his cast. After signing the cast, he reads Evan's letter (which he grabbed from the printer as a favor) and becomes furious at the mention of Zoe, thinking Evan intended for him to see the letter in order to make fun of him. He storms out, taking the letter with him.
Several days pass with no sign of Connor. Evan is in an intense state of anxiety over what Connor might have done with the letter, and tells Jared online about his assignment to write letters to himself, and how he's worried about what Connor might have done with the letter ("Waving Through a Window" (Reprise #2)). Later, Evan is called to the principal's office and is told that Connor died by suicide days before, with Evan's letter found in his pocket, which they believe is a suicide note addressed to him. Evan goes to Connor's house for dinner. Jared had instructed him to "nod and confirm", avoiding lying directly or adding anything new, but his awkwardness makes him stumble and he lies, pretending they had been best friends, stating they emailed in secret. The Murphys don't question this because Larry had been reading Connor's main account. Zoe and Cynthia get into an argument, and Evan jumps in, recounting a fictional version of the day he broke his arm at an abandoned apple orchard the Murphys had visited ("For Forever"). Later, Heidi reminds Evan that he needs to begin applying for college scholarships. She mentions hearing about Connor's death, but Evan tells her not to worry and that he didn't know Connor. After realizing he needs evidence of his supposed "secret email account", Evan enlists Jared's help in creating fake, backdated email conversations between himself and Connor ("Sincerely, Me").
After Evan shows the Murphy family Connor's "emails", Cynthia is ecstatic that her son had a friend, but Larry is more hurt that Connor took his family and his privileged life for granted. When Cynthia tries to show Zoe the emails, she is angry, remembering Connor's violent and scary behavior. They argue again, but Zoe still refuses to mourn Connor ("Requiem"). Despite this, after reading the suicide note, Zoe notices that she is mentioned and asks Evan why Connor would say that about her. Evan, unable to tell her the truth, tells her all the reasons he loves her under the guise of Connor saying them ("If I Could Tell Her"). Overcome with emotion, he impulsively kisses Zoe, but she pulls away and tells him to leave.
At school, Evan and Alana notice that people are starting to forget about Connor. Spurred on by a vision of Connor, Evan enlists Alana and Jared's help in founding "The Connor Project"—an organization dedicated to keeping Connor's memory alive. The three pitch the idea to the Murphys, who agree to support the project ("Disappear"). Moved by his dedication, Cynthia gives Evan a necktie she had gotten for Connor that he had never worn and asks Evan to wear it when he speaks at Connor's memorial service. At the official launch of The Connor Project, Evan gives an inspiring speech about his loneliness and friendship with Connor, which goes viral. Zoe, overcome by the impact her brother and Evan have had, kisses him ("You Will Be Found").
Evan and Alana pitch a fundraising idea on The Connor Project's website. In memory of Connor, they want to raise $50,000 in three weeks to reopen the abandoned apple orchard where Evan and Connor supposedly spent time. Despite Alana's total devotion to the project, Evan becomes preoccupied with his new relationship with Zoe and his newfound family in the Murphys, and begins to neglect his mother, Jared, and The Connor Project ("Sincerely, Me (Reprise)").
Heidi tells Evan that she saw the video of his speech on Facebook and asks him why he did not tell her about The Connor Project or about his friendship with Connor. He angrily responds that he did not have the time because she is never around. Overcome with emotion, he then rushes off to the Murphys', telling her that he is going to Jared's. At the Murphys', Evan bonds with Larry Murphy and confides in him about his childhood. Larry offers him an old baseball glove of Connor's that was never used ("To Break in a Glove"). Sometime later, at Evan's house, Evan makes an offhand comment to Zoe about how he and his mother do not have much money and he needs scholarships to pay for college. When he begins to mention Connor, Zoe tells him that she does not want their relationship to be about Connor, but about the two of them ("Only Us").
Evan gets into a fight with Jared, who claims that Connor's death was the best thing that ever happened to Evan – he is no longer invisible and has landed the girl of his dreams. Later, Evan goes to the Murphys', only to discover they invited Heidi over for dinner. She is mortified to learn they want to give Evan Connor's college fund. At home, Heidi and Evan fight over his secrecy and deception. Evan confesses he feels welcomed and accepted into the Murphy family in lieu of Heidi's absence. Meanwhile, Alana begins to find inconsistencies in the fake emails. Evan then asks Jared to help fix the inaccuracies, but he refuses and threatens to expose Evan, who counters that he could expose Jared's role. Heidi, Alana, and Jared converge in Evan's conscience, compounding his guilt and doubt over his decisions ("Good for You").
Evan decides he has to come clean with what he has done. Imaginary Connor attempts to talk him out of it, citing the happiness he has given the Murphys and the fate of Evan's relationship with Zoe, but Evan does not back down, angrily shouting that he needs the whole thing to be over. Connor is unconvinced and asks Evan how he broke his arm: did he fall by accident or actually let go? Evan denies suicidal intent, but Connor tells him that if he tells the truth, all he has will be gone, and the only thing he will be left with is himself ("For Forever" (Reprise)). He disappears, leaving Evan alone.
Evan goes to apologize to Alana, but she says she has given up on Evan helping her with The Connor Project as she doubts the truth of Evan's repeated statements that he was Connor's best friend. Desperate, Evan says he has proof that they were friends. He shows her the letter to himself that he wrote when he was giving up on having a good year, claiming it to be Connor's suicide note. Realizing that the letter is the key to fulfilling the fundraising goal, Alana posts it online where, to Evan's chagrin, it goes viral. As a result, many people begin to believe Connor's suicide was because of his uncaring, wealthy parents ("You Will Be Found" (Reprise)).
Evan is distraught and goes to see the Murphys, who have become the targets of hateful comments from people who believe they were responsible for Connor's death. He walks in on the three of them fighting about why Connor really killed himself and finally admits that he fabricated the entire thing, hopeful that he could forge a genuine bond with the Murphys out of the tragedy. As Zoe and her mother tearfully run out, Larry turns away from Evan in disgust. Alone once more, Evan absorbs his perceived brokenness as inescapable ("Words Fail").
Evan finds Heidi waiting for him at home. She saw the letter online and immediately knew that it was one of Evan's therapy assignments. She apologizes to Evan for not seeing how badly he had been hurting, though Evan denies her guilt due to his deception. He then vaguely admits that his fall was a suicide attempt. Heidi sits him down and recalls the day that his father moved out and how she felt so small and alone and did not know how she was going to make it by herself. In the end, however, she realized that she was not alone – she had Evan and knew that the two of them could make it through anything so long as they were together. Tearfully, Heidi promises that she will always be there for him when he needs her ("So Big/So Small").
A year later, Evan is still living at home and working at Pottery Barn to earn enough money to go to college the next semester. He contacts Zoe, whom he has not seen since the day she found out the truth, and asks if she will agree to meet him. She does, but insists that they meet at the orchard that has been reopened in Connor's memory. He apologizes for the pain he caused her family and admits that he has been reading Connor's ten favorite books after finding a list in an old yearbook in an attempt to connect with who he really was. He also thanks her and her parents for keeping his secret and reveals that they never told anyone else that his friendship with Connor was a lie. She forgives him, saying the whole ordeal brought her family closer together over the past year because "everyone needed it for something." Evan asks her why she insisted on meeting at the orchard, and she replies that she wanted to be sure he saw it, and the two share a gentle moment before they part. Evan mentally writes himself one last letter reflecting on the impact he has had on his community and finally accepts himself ("Finale").
|March Workshop & Washington, D.C.
|Original Broadway Cast
|US Tour Cast
|Evan Hansen||Ben Platt||Ben Levi Ross||Robert Markus|
|Heidi Hansen||Rachel Bay Jones||Jessica Phillips||Jessica Sherman|
|Zoe Murphy||Barrett Wilbert Weed||Laura Dreyfuss||Maggie McKenna||Steph La Rochelle|
|Cynthia Murphy||Jennifer Laura Thompson||Christiane Noll||Claire Rankin|
|Larry Murphy||Michael Park||John Dossett||Michael Park||Aaron Lazar||Evan Buliung|
|Connor Murphy||Will Pullen||Mike Faist||Marrick Smith||Sean Patrick Dolan|
|Alana Beck||Erin Wilhelmi||Emily Walton||Alexis Molnar||Kristolyn Lloyd||Phoebe Koyabe||Shakura Dickson|
|Jared Kleinman||Alex Wyse||Will Roland||Jared Goldsmith||Alessandro Costantini|
*Not included on the Original Broadway Cast Recording
An original Broadway cast album was released at midnight on February 3, 2017. The second song on the album, "Waving Through A Window", was released as a special early download for those who had pre-ordered the album. The fifth song, "Requiem", was made available to stream for 24 hours on January 26, 2017, a week before the release of the cast recording. The song was released as a second pre-order bonus the next day. The recording of the Act 1 finale "You Will Be Found" was available for a first listen online on January 30, 2017. The cast album debuted at number 8 on the February 25 Billboard 200. The cast album became available in compact disc format on February 24, 2017. The cast album, produced by Alex Lacamoire, featuring the band from both the original Off-Broadway and Broadway productions, including Ben Cohn (piano), Jamie Eblen (drums), Justin Goldner and Dillon Kondor (guitars), Rob Jost (bass), Justin Smith, Todd Low and Adele Stein (strings) and won the 2018 Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album.
A deluxe album was announced on September 26, 2018. The deluxe album will contain all of the songs in the Original Broadway Cast Recording, in addition to cut songs and covers. The cut song "Part of Me" was available exclusively on Billboard.com before it was officially released. The album was to be released on October 19; however, that date was postponed to November 2. American singer Katy Perry re-recorded "Waving Through a Window" to promote the show's national tour. Other songs on the deluxe album include "Obvious", the precursor to "If I Could Tell Her", "Hiding in Your Hands" which was replaced by "Requiem", and an acoustic version of "Disappear".
Dear Evan Hansen premiered at the Arena Stage in Washington, D.C., running from July 10 to August 23, 2015. Directed by Michael Greif, with orchestrations by Alex Lacamoire, the set was designed by David Korins and the projection design was by Peter Nigrini. The cast featured Ben Platt in the title role.
The musical opened Off-Broadway at the Second Stage Theater on March 26, 2016, in previews, with the official opening on May 1. The cast featured Ben Platt, Laura Dreyfuss, Mike Faist, Rachel Bay Jones, Will Roland and Jennifer Laura Thompson repeating their roles from the Arena Stage production. New cast members were John Dossett and Kristolyn Lloyd. Michael Greif again directed, with choreography by Danny Mefford. The Off-Broadway engagement closed on May 29, 2016.
The show premiered on Broadway on November 14, 2016, in previews, and officially opened on December 4. After originally announcing that performances would take place at the Belasco Theatre, in mid-September 2016, producers announced that the show would instead be performed at the Music Box Theatre. Michael Park, who originated the role of Larry in the Arena Stage production, returned for the Broadway production (replacing John Dossett who went on to the musical War Paint). All other cast members from the Second Stage production returned for the Broadway engagement. Ben Platt played his last performance on November 19, 2017. Noah Galvin replaced Platt on November 21, 2017 and played until February 2018. Taylor Trensch played two performances in the show before officially replacing Galvin on February 6, 2018. The 2018 Jimmy Award winner, Andrew Barth Feldman, made his Broadway debut, replacing Trensch, on January 30, 2019.
A U.S. tour launched in October 2018 in Denver, Colorado, starring Ben Levi Ross in the title role. It also stars Jessica Phillips in the role of Heidi Hansen, Jared Goldsmith in the role of Jared Kleinman, and Phoebe Koyabe in the role of Alana Beck. Also starring in the tour is Christiane Noll in the role of Cynthia Murphy, Aaron Lazar as Larry Murphy, Marrick Smith in the role of Connor Murphy, and Maggie Mckenna in the role of Zoe Murphy. The tour debuted in Denver in October 2018 and will go on to play more than fifty cities.
The show will play its first international performance in Toronto. The production is slated to begin performances in March 2019. The role of Evan Hansen will be played by Robert Markus. The cast will also include Jessica Sherman as Heidi Hansen, Evan Buliung as Larry Murphy, Claire Rankin as Cynthia Murphy, Alessandro Costantini as Jared Kleinman, Shakura Dickson as Alana Beck, Sean Patrick Dolan as Connor Murphy and Stephanie La Rochelle as Zoe Murphy.
A West End production is expected to open at the Noël Coward Theatre from November 2019. It was announced on February 7, 2019 that the London production will begin previews on October 27 and will open on November 19.
The musical has received critical acclaim, particularly for Ben Platt's leading performance, the lyrics, and the book. The story has also provided and encouraged open dialogue about its themes of mental illness and youth suicide. Dear Evan Hansen is a recipient of the 2015 Edgerton Foundation New Play Award.
Derek Mong, in his review of the musical at the Arena Stage, wrote that the "inventive set design by David Korins...that transforms a small stage into a platform for the most intimate living room where a mother and son share a heart-to-heart to the physical abyss of internet cyberspace... book by Steven Levenson... lyrics and music by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul... heartfelt lyrics with universal appeal joined by the perfect, oftentimes acoustic, accompaniment that can change the mood from somber to celebratory to sinister in a single bar of music." Barbara Mackay in reviewing the Arena Stage production for TheatreMania wrote: "Levenson, Pasek, and Paul set themselves two high, untraditional bars in Evan Hansen: exploring a community's grief and examining a lonely protagonist who desperately wants to connect with that community... Ben Platt is outstanding as Evan... Since the success of the musical depends entirely on whether Evan's solitary nature appears funny or weird, Evan's ability to laugh at himself and make the audience laugh is crucial. Platt is charming as he eternally twists his shirt tails and hangs his head... Although the themes of grief and loneliness are serious, the musical is anything but somber. It addresses challenging facts of life. But from start to finish, when Evan leaves his room and finds an authentic life outside it, Dear Evan Hansen contains far more joy than sadness."
Charles Isherwood, in his review of the Second Stage production for The New York Times, noted: "The songs, by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (Dogfight, A Christmas Story), strike the same complex notes, with shapely, heartfelt lyrics that expose the tensions and conflicts that Connor’s death and Evan’s involvement cause in both families. The music, played by a small but excellent band on a platform upstage, is appealingly unstrident pop-rock, with generous doses of acoustic guitar, keyboards and strings. It's the finest, most emotionally resonant score yet from this promising young songwriting team." Susan Davidson, in her review of the Arena Stage production for CurtainUp, noted: "it helps to suspend the disbelief that sullen, anti-social teenagers can change quickly. Surely that's a process requiring time-released hormonal adjustments. It is hard to accept that a long-admired-from-afar girl can change Evan's outlook on life so rapidly or that Connor's teenage disequilibrium leads him to do what he does. Coming through loud and clear, however, is the fact that what starts as deceit can be blown totally out of proportion by the Internet where lies are disseminated with lightning speed leaving plenty of victims in their wake [...] The music is pleasant, not terribly original but good enough to get toes tapping. Benj Pasek and Justin Paul's ballads stand out, particularly Heidi's 'So Big/So Small,' Evan's 'Words Fail' and Zoe and Evan's young sweethearts duet 'Only Us.'"
Despite widespread acclaim for the show, its story and music, the overall public reception was not without its criticism. Some reviews of the show claim that it romanticizes and sanitizes mental illness by not mentioning the name of the diagnosis Evan has (many claim it to be social anxiety disorder with features of Asperger syndrome) and glorifies suicide, leaving many to question how Connor kills himself and if Evan's suicide attempt was truly intentional (even Stacey Mindich, lead producer of the original Broadway production, claimed that she and the team did not want the show to be called a "suicide musical" in order to gain an audience).
Jason Zinoman in a piece for Slate argues that the musical "employs many different tactics to prevent us from seeing Evan Hansen as a jerk, but its most audacious is to not allow anyone onstage to see him that way...The choice to give Evan Hansen no comeuppance doesn’t make dramatic sense. But you don’t need to be too cynical to see its commercial and emotional logic. Not giving voice to anger at Evan Hansen avoids the more unpleasant ramifications of his exploitation of a tragedy for his own personal gain, which might complicate the audience’s reaction to him. Evan Hansen isn’t as interested in these themes as it is in keeping the focus on the insecurity of the outsider, the nerd, the teenager yearning for acceptance. (To be fair, it is also interested in Evan’s mother, who has one of the most moving songs in the show.)"
Hilton Als of The New Yorker was also critical, writing "It would have been amazing if Levenson had continued to dig into Evan’s awfulness. Instead, he takes side trips into tired knee-jerk liberalism and therapeutic healing. (One of the more uncomfortable moments in the show is when Alana, a black character, played by Kristolyn Lloyd as a P.C. bully, screams about her invisibility. Levenson and the others are trying to keep up with the times and diversify, but why does it have to feel so forced and tired?) Evan confesses his deceit and makes it clear that all he wanted, really, was to be loved, because of, well, that absent daddy, that inattentive mommy, and the nastiness of the world. With that false move, the show’s creators risk destroying what’s so spikily fascinating about Evan. Still, until the second act, and despite it, Platt gives a performance that binds us to him in the way that Holden Caulfield, that other teen with a voice, did—especially when he said, 'It’s funny. Don’t ever tell anybody anything. If you do, you start missing everybody.'"
|2016||Helen Hayes Award||Outstanding Musical—HAYES Production||Won|
|Outstanding Direction of a Musical—HAYES Production||Michael Greif||Won|
|Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Musical—HAYES Production||Laura Dreyfuss||Nominated|
|Jennifer Laura Thompson||Nominated|
|Outstanding Ensemble in a Musical—HAYES Production||Won|
|Outstanding Lighting Design—HAYES Production||Japhy Weideman||Nominated|
|Outstanding Musical Direction—HAYES Production||Ben Cohn||Nominated|
|Outstanding Set Design—HAYES Production||David Kornis (Set Design) and Peter Nigrini (Projection Design)||Nominated|
|2016||The Charles MacArthur Award for Outstanding Original New Play or Musical||Steven Levenson (Book), Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (Lyrics & Music)||Nominated|
|Outer Critics Circle Awards||Outstanding New Off-Broadway Musical||Won|
|Outstanding New Score (Broadway or Off-Broadway)||Benj Pasek and Justin Paul||Nominated|
|Outstanding Book of a Musical (Broadway or Off-Broadway)||Steven Levenson||Won|
|Outstanding Director of a Musical||Michael Greif||Nominated|
|Outstanding Actor in a Musical||Ben Platt||Nominated|
|Outstanding Projection Design (Play or Musical)||Peter Nigrini||Nominated|
|Off Broadway Alliance Awards||Best New Musical||Nominated|
|Drama League Award||Outstanding Production of a Broadway or Off-Broadway Musical||Nominated|
|Distinguished Performance||Ben Platt||Nominated|
|Drama Desk Awards||Outstanding Lyrics||Benj Pasek and Justin Paul||Won|
|Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical||Rachel Bay Jones||Nominated|
|Outstanding Projection Design||Peter Nigrini||Nominated|
|Obie Awards||Obie Award for Musical Theatre||Steven Levenson (Book), Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (Lyrics & Music)||Won|
|Obie Award for Distinguished Performance by an Actor||Ben Platt||Won|
|2017||Lucille Lortel Awards||Outstanding Musical||Nominated|
|Outstanding Lead Actor in a Musical||Ben Platt||Won|
|Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical||Rachel Bay Jones||Won|
|Outstanding Projection Design||Peter Nigrini||Nominated|
|2017||Tony Awards||Best Musical||Won|
|Best Book of a Musical||Steven Levenson||Won|
|Best Original Score||Benj Pasek and Justin Paul||Won|
|Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical||Ben Platt||Won|
|Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical||Mike Faist||Nominated|
|Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical||Rachel Bay Jones||Won|
|Best Lighting Design of a Musical||Japhy Weideman||Nominated|
|Best Direction of a Musical||Michael Greif||Nominated|
|Best Orchestrations||Alex Lacamoire||Won|
|Drama League Awards||Outstanding Production of a Broadway or Off-Broadway Production||Won|
|Distinguished Performance||Ben Platt||Won|
|Rachel Bay Jones||Nominated|
|2018||Grammy Awards||Best Musical Theater Album||Laura Dreyfuss, Mike Faist, Rachel Bay Jones, Kristolyn Lloyd, Michael Park, Ben Platt, Will Roland & Jennifer Laura Thompson (principal soloists); Pete Ganbarg, Alex Lacamoire, Stacey Mindich, Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (producers); Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (composers/lyricists)||Won|
|Daytime Emmy Awards||Outstanding Musical Performance in a Daytime Program||Ben Platt & the Cast of Dear Evan Hansen
"You Will Be Found"
(performed on The Today Show)
In 2018, several items from the Broadway run of the musical, including a shirt, arm cast, button for The Connor Project, copy of the "Dear Evan Hansen" letter, and a piece of sheet music, were donated to the National Museum of American History at the Smithsonian Institution.
The musical was adapted into a young adult novel by actor and singer-songwriter Val Emmich, in collaboration with Pasek, Paul and Levenson. The novel, which features additional material based on scenes and songs cut from the show's development that flesh out and expand upon the story, was released by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers on October 9, 2018.
On November 29, 2018, it was announced that Universal Pictures optioned the musical to make a film version. Marc Platt and Adam Siegel will serve as producers, while Levenson, Pasek, and Paul will be executive producers. Stephen Chbosky is in early talks to direct from a screenplay by Levenson.
Awards for Dear Evan Hansen