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Mike Faist’s Guide to Washington D.C.

The Dear Evan Hansen star looks back on the place where the smash-hit play got its start

Capitol Hill’s political theater often overshadows Washington D.C.’s actual theater scene. But back in rosy, pre-election 2015, that’s where current Broadway juggernaut Dear Evan Hansen originally debuted, so it’s no wonder that key player Mike Faist looks back on the town fondly. “Not only is D.C. is a popular place to try out new theater, it’s also a really great place to go out and have the best food,” Faist says. 

These days, Evan Hansen’s operatic emotional honesty and inclusive message are a much-needed antidote to the vitriol wafting out of Washington, but back then, as Faist recalls, the most controversial character looming over D.C. was merely fictional. “My girlfriend and I would go on runs in the morning along the Potomac. It was a little like Frank Underwood, yeah. That’s basically all we had in our heads while we were on our runs, is how can we take over the world?” Faist jokes.  

Cast of Dear Evan Hansen
Credit: Nathan Johnson

He may be joking, but Faist, who, at 17, moved to New York City from the Columbus suburb of Gahanna, Ohio, knows something about playing unlikeable characters. Like Robert DeNiro’s character in Raging Bull (one of his favorites, he says), Faist’s Evan Hansen character, Connor Murphy, alienates those around him with his anger. But if Faist’s upbeat demeanor, not to mention his killer dance moves, are any indication, he floats like a butterfly more than he stings like a bee. 

“I can honestly say I do 100% of the dancing in the show, as little as it is,” he says. “It was something I did growing up. Watching the old MGM films, I always pressured my parents into getting me into dance class.” 

If a triple-threat like Faist considers D.C. a destination for the performing arts, we’re inclined to believe him. Read on for the actor/dancer/singer’s favorite stops in our nation’s capital. 

1. Cup of Joe: Malmaison is a great little French café in Georgetown. My girlfriend and I would take the walking or biking trails here in the morning to have our cup of coffee and read the paper. We basically just followed the Potomac the entire way. It’s kind of away from everything and right there on the water.

2. Power Lunch: Founding Farmers is a D.C. standard, says me, the tourist… It’s always crowded so I feel like tourists hear about it and then the locals try to stay away. But it is amazing food. They have a great breakfast. 

3. Cocktail Hour: My friend who lives there recommends Don Titos in Arlington, but I like The Hamilton

4. Retail Therapy: Georgetown has a lot of great shopping and if you can venture out in the neighborhoods for a walk, the old houses are beautiful.

5. Field Trip: Stand up paddleboard on the Potomac. Bike riding in D.C. is very accessible. Also, Harpers Ferry National Historical Park.

6. Date Night: Oyamel Cocina Mexicana. The ceviche there is top notch. The food overall is just fantastic and the guy who runs it has maybe a dozen restaurants in D.C. alone, and they’re all different in various ways. Get the grasshopper taco – it’s good and crispy! 

7. Don’t Miss: Newseum is probably the most compelling museum in the area. It costs about 20 bucks but you can see all the Smithsonian ones for free, so it kind of balances out. It’s just extremely compelling because they take you on a history through media and media in this country and from the very first newspapers of the revolutionary war and before that even, and they take you through an entire timeline up to current events.

8. Hidden Gem: My dancer friend works at Evening Star Café in the Del Ray neighborhood in Alexandria, Virginia. If you want to get out and see a bit more of the suburbs, it’s very quaint and diner-esque. It’s off the map a bit and away from the city.