Theater at KO gets Hyper-Focused

Arts

KO theater tackles a modern, never-been-done-before production this fall. Published in 2013, “Hyper-Focus” by Jim Knable introduces audiences to Thomas Jefferson, or TJ, who learns to live with ADHD. 

“It’s a coming of age story about how he learns to deal with his diagnosis,” said sophomore Zaire Ramiz who plays TJ’s compassionate teacher, Mr. Franklin. TJ views his diagnosis as a negative aspect of his life but learns to accept it and appreciate it as a part of him.

Freshman Gordon Beck takes on the part of TJ, a middle schooler who is navigating his relationships with his mother, friends, teachers, and first crush. He mentions that an important part of his role is making sure to convey the right message to the audience. “My sister has ADHD, so if I have any questions I can always ask her,” he said. “I really don’t want to inform people of the wrong thing.”

ADHD, or Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, is a common neurological disorder among children and adults. “I feel like ADHD has become an indescribable yet overdiagnosed commonality, and I feel like we shrug it off, but I want to do a really thorough dive into what it is and what it looks like in 2022,” Theater Director Kyle Reynolds said. “I think that some of these disorders are always shifting and changing, and it’s great that our play gets to shine a light on that.” 

Students in the fall play have had the opportunity to meet with Jim Knable in order to gain his insight on certain lines and characters. “He’s working with KO to alter the script and the characters in order to make it a more accurate representation of ADHD in 2022,” said senior Faith Potter who plays TJ’s first crush, Sally. A concern of the theater department was the fact that the real Thomas Jefferson, who TJ is named after, was known for raping his 14-year-old slave, Sally Hemings. In KO’s production, Sally will be renamed Sandy.

Mr. Reynolds has been an essential part of theater at KO for the past few years and saw himself during this production as the “liaison” between Jim Knable and the students. “I have my own interpretation of how something could be said or how it could be communicated to each character,” he said. Faith emphasized that he takes the time to analyze every detail of the play in order to better understand the overall message. “There’s a method to his madness. He really takes everything that other directors might see as trivial and makes sure that it’s delivered in the right way,” she said.

Mr. Reynolds mentioned that after the show, two neuropsychologists along with members of the KO Wellness team will talk to the audience about ADHD in adolescents.“If you’re an audience member, you get to see an entertaining show and a really great story, but you also leave with this new piece of knowledge that you can’t just read in a book or in a magazine or in the newspaper,” he said. Along with this, Zaire promises an interesting set and a performance, unlike anything KO has seen in the past.

Watch “Hyper-Focus” Nov. 10-11, at 7:30 p.m. in the Black Box!