Pay attention to ‘Distracted’

Polk County Itemizer-Observer
By Emily Mentzer
March 27, 2014


MONMOUTH — Tia Laulusa, 22, is too young to be the mother of a 9-year-old boy with attention deficit disorder, but she plays one in “Distracted,” the spring theater production at Western Oregon University.

The play, written by American playwright Lisa Loomer, explores not only ADD, but the distractions modern society faces in today’s world — things that grant immediate and constant updates including social media and cellphones.

For director Ted deChatelet, the play presents many challenges, but the technical aspects are the most difficult.

“It’s technically incredibly complicated,” he said. “The whole set is projection, so we have music and puppets, on top of rehearsing.”

Laulusa, who plays Mama, doesn’t think the stage is a good place for a child, so Jesse, played by Sam Richardson, is offstage, represented only by a puppet projection on the screen.

To create the set, the audience sits sort of backstage rather than in the main theater.

“The main house is not conducive to intimate theater,” deChatelet explained.

This nine-man production is definitely intimate, as actors share their distractions with the audience.

JR Jackson, who plays Dad, even cries.

“I have some dark things to think about (to help me cry), but it helps me jump into the scene,” he said.

Laulusa said she is trying to fight back tears most of the time, and uses the Meisner Technique — thinking of something extremely happy or sad — to help express her character’s emotions.

Actors of Distracted on stage
Tia Laulusa, as Mama, attempts to meditate while she is distracted by thoughts of her 9-year-old child, represented physically by actors walking by, yelling obscenities.

“That’s the tricky part, letting yourself go to that place, and letting yourself go to that place in front of people,” she said.

Jackson said “Distracted” is unique.

“It’s something close to perfect with its balance in comedy and drama,” he said.

Laulusa said it may be one of her favorites.

“It’s the most relatable,” she said. “Everybody knows someone, whether it’s their kid, nephew, cousin, who has something going on — depression, OCD, ADD.”

Still, portraying the “epitome of selflessness” in Mama is one of the hardest things Laulusa said she had to portray.

“That absolutely was the hardest thing,” she said. “It does not conjure up what a real mother goes through.”

Jackson used the experiences of young dads around him.

“I realize three hours into the conversation (with young dads) that we’re not talking about basketball, we’re talking about kids,” Jackson said.

His cousin imparted sage advice that helps him in his role: “The kids is your world. You don’t go to the bathroom without thinking about your kid.”

On Stage

What: “Distracted,” by Lisa Loomer, directed by Ted deChatelet. The production is sponsored by Western Oregon University’s Department of Theater and Dance.

Where: Rice Auditorium, Western Oregon University, 345 N. Monmouth Ave., Monmouth.

When: Curtain is at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday (today) through Saturday.

Admission: General, $12; seniors, $10; students, $7.

Of note: The play is a mix of comedy and drama, with adult language and adult themes.

For tickets or more information: Rice Auditorium Box Office, 503-838-8462, Monday through Friday from 12:30 to 4:30 p.m.

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