POSTED ON OCTOBER 2, 2013:
A Deficit of Attention
Better take your meds for this one
Feeling distracted by all the gadgets in your life? If so, the TCC Theater Department has the play for you.
To open its 2013-14 season, TCC offers, Distracted, a play about a mother dealing with a child with attention deficit disorder. Director Jim Runyon, also the department's production supervisor and an adjunct faculty member, called it a mix of comedy and drama.
"It's hilarious, but it's also very poignant," he said.
It's also a bit of a new direction for TCC Theater, and this has come to pass as a result of several elements. First was a familiarity with the play's author.
"Well, we read a bunch of plays every year when we go into our season planning committee," Runyon explained. "We had done The Waiting Room by Lisa Loomer a few years ago. This one was among several that we read and kind of discussed as we were planning the season."
But the nature of the play itself was intriguing, as well.
"I was particularly fond of it because it's something exciting that we haven't done here much -- it's very post-modern in that the actors are playing multiple roles and sometimes stepping out of character," he said. "And it's got some multimedia aspects to it. You know, we get information overload from every direction, and then we take medicines to deal with the world, and then we take medicines to deal with the side effects."
Very meta, indeed.
This will mark the first production the theater has undertaken since Mark Frost, the college's new coordinator of theater, has joined the TCC faculty after a 20-year stay at Coffeyville Community College, and that also played a part in selecting the season.
"We were doing a faculty search for the coordinator of the program, so we didn't have that person in place, but we went ahead and chose his first show for him," Runyon said. "We picked three of four shows for the season."
Finally, Runyon had to deal with the exodus of what he called several core members of TCC theater. For instance, Caitlin Cash, who has been seen in several TCC shows, not to mention this summer's Shakespeare in the Park, among other shows, headed off to the University of Tulsa, as did Nicole Billups, Cody McCoy, and several others.
"We had a big turnover last year -- Caitlin and others who had been with us for a few semesters," Runyon said. "So this is kind of exciting." Or nerve-wracking. Runyon is, apparently, a glass-half-full kind of guy.
And while Runyon is glad for his theater students to move forward in their education and theater careers, the fact remains that when they do so, he's left with some unknowns for the coming season.
"We try to think about who will be coming back," he said, as very often, theater companies choose works with an idea of who they might cast in the larger roles even before auditions. They don't always end up casting those actors, but you don't choose to do The Music Man for your next season if you don't have anyone with even the remotest possibility of play Harold Hill. Similarly, if you have a theater department or company with 50 women and two guys, you don't put 1776 down for the next season. "You can't know for sure, but we knew that these core kids were moving on."
All this led to Distraction.
"Mama talks to the audience like they're her best friend," Runyon said of the show. "She's relating her journey to get help for her son, Jesse, who has ADHD. She goes through several doctors, and we see through the course of the play that almost all the adults that are working to help her deal with her son's problems have many of the same problems themselves."
There are definitely elements of social commentary, as Jesse's dad, insisting that the nine-year-old's behavior is just the behavior of a child, checks his cell phone while meeting with a specialist and spends time on his tablet at the dinner table.
But this is not just about the short attention span of one kid.
"To me, it's broader than just the subject of ADHD and medication," Runyon said. "It's any parent's desire to help their kid make it through tough times. It's relatable to just about everybody, but there is strong language. It's definitely not for kids, even though Jesse is nine. He's mostly an offstage voice, but he cusses a lot."
Jesse is played by 10-year-old Logan Cash, the little brother of the actress Runyon saw leave his program at the end of the 2012-13 school year. And Runyon loves him. Hey, if you can't have one performer, getting her little brother is a good way to ease the pain of the loss.
"He's great," Runyon said of the boy. "He's a fun kid. On his audition form, where it said to list your theater experience, he put, 'I don't have any so far.'"
The younger Cash joins five women and two men.
"The actors play multiple roles," Runyon said. "The mom is played by a student new to our program, Anna Puhl. One of the men plays three doctors, and another woman plays another doctor and a neighbor."
The TCC Theatre Department presents Distracted by Lisa Loomer, its season opener. The show runs for two weekends, with performances at 8pm on Oct. 4 and 5 and a 2pm matinee on Sunday the 6th. The second weekend run begins Thursday, Oct. 10 and runs through Oct. 13 in the Studio Theatre of The VanTrease Performing Arts Centre for Education, located at 10300 E. 81st St. The play contains adult language and mature subject matter. Tickets are $10 and available through myticketoffice.com or by phone at 918-595-7777.
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