Theater and Performance Studies BA Projects

Cameron Miller

Academic Paper: Fighting the Odds and Falling Short: The Dramaturgical Function of Single Motherhood in Dear Evan Hansen
Artistic Project: Dotted Lines

Biographical Statement
Cameron Miller (she/her/hers) is originally from Maitland, Florida. Cameron is double majoring in Theater and Performance Studies and Biological Sciences with a specialization in Endocrinology at the University of Chicago. Throughout her time in college, Cameron has been lucky to work with Fire Escape Films, University Theatre, and Off Off Campus, the second oldest collegiate improv and sketch comedy troupe in the country. After graduating, Cameron looks forward to working as a community health fellow with Project Horseshoe Farm, a non-profit organization based in Alabama, to pursue her passions in education, healthcare, and service.

Research Statement
I first became interested in the representation of single mothers in theatre during my third year of college. I was taking a class with Chicago director Devon DeMayo on women in American plays. I was intrigued by single mother characters in the works we read—how these women were characterized, framed, and utilized throughout their stories. Surprisingly, I came to realize that there were many more single mother characters in the American canon than I expected: Les Misérables, Sweat, Gypsy, The King and I, Goodbye Girl, Mama Mia, Into the Woods, The Glass Menagerie, Miss Saigon all feature single mothers in principal roles. But one single mother, in particular, drew my interest: Heidi Hansen from the popular Broadway musical Dear Evan Hansen.

Heidi is an interesting case study because she is deeply reflective of the classic American conception of the single mother. Heidi is strong, caring, and extremely hardworking; she is constantly busy, struggling to support her son financially and emotionally during his difficult teenage years. But how does this intriguing figure operate dramaturgically within the plot of Dear Evan Hansen?

Heidi has number of strengths and skills as a mother. Yet despite these strengths, it is largely Heidi’s inadequacies as a single mother that function to drive her son’s narrative forward throughout the show. Heidi has two main insufficiencies that drive the plot: Her financial struggles and her lack of presence in the home. Heidi’s deficiencies function to situate Evan’s character as an underdog protagonist, build tension throughout the period of rising action, generate conflict, raise the stakes of Evan’s situation, and, finally, create an emotional climax at the end of the musical. To demonstrate how Heidi’s inadequacies drive Evan’s story forward, the critical paper linearly tracks the plotline of Dear Evan Hansen—starting from the opening scene, all the way to Heidi’s final moments onstage.

The dramaturgical function of Heidi’s insufficiencies in Dear Evan Hansen prompts a number of culturally relevant questions. Why does the plot rest on Heidi’s inadequacies? How do single mother characters in other musicals operate dramaturgically within their texts? Do we see any patterns of the representation of single motherhood across theatrical works? The answers to such questions provide an opportunity for us to gain insight into not only how our society views single motherhood, but how we understand class, gender, socioeconomic status, and non-traditional/non-heteronormative parenthood in today’s world.

Artistic Statement
Throughout the process of writing my critical paper, I greatly enjoyed unpacking the worlds of the single mother characters of American theatre. However, I wanted to explore a different facet of single motherhood in my creative project: the elusive figure that is the absent partner. Who is this individual, and how do they manage to go unmarked in the many theatrical works featuring single mothers?

Since I saw and read so little about the absent parent figure, I decided to challenge myself to explore the unfamiliar relationship that exists between the absent parent and their child. What does this relationship look like when the child is no longer a child? How do these children, as adults, view themselves and their parents? How does an absent parent rationalize and reflect on their choice to be absent?

My short play, Dotted Lines, investigates themes of memory, distance, pain, and forgiveness by unravelling the relationship between an estranged father and his daughter. Hopefully, in writing this play, I have offered a few opportunities for audience members to explore these questions.

While I was looking forward to presenting this play live in a room of friends and peers, unfortunately, the current situation has made this impossible. So, instead of a traditional staged reading, I decided to conduct a reading of the play through Zoom. This platform took a lot of adjusting and readjusting, but in the end, we created a piece that I’m truly proud of. The quality of this final product is largely, if not entirely, due to the work that my actors put into this play. I am so lucky to have such talented, dedicated individuals on this project, and it has been such an honor to work with them over the past couple months. They took the script, made it their own, and brought these characters to life through grainy webcams and low-quality mics in a way that is truly incredible to me. Thank you to my actors, and thank you to everyone who helped mold this play into what it is today.

Artistic Project – Dotted Lines
For access to the video of Dotted Lines, please email Cameron Miller at

Madison ………..……… Hana Eldessouky
Wes ……………….…….. Joey Cipriano
Nurse ……………………. Ellen Askey
Stage Directions ……. Jo Blankson