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I Have No Idea, play inspired by adults living with ADHD

Neurodiversity, the power of music, importance of friendship and how simply enjoying a coffee can make everything seem better represented in play, 'I Have No Idea', coming to Saskatoon.

SASKATOON - A new Saskatchewan play, featuring original music, explores the lives of adults living with ADHD.

Neurodiversity, the power of music, importance of friendship and how simply enjoying a coffee can make everything seem better.

March 14-17 and another showing March 21-24 at The Refinery, ‘I Have No Idea’ is part of the Live Five’s 20th anniversary season.

Nathan Coppens, award-winning writer said his inspiration came from his experience with his own ADHD diagnosis and journey.

“ADHD is still a misunderstood disorder, and so many people don't get diagnosed until later in life, if they get diagnosed at all, and don't get the help and support and understanding they need,” said Coppens. “The classic presentation that we're all familiar with (and that we see in pop media) is the young hyperactive boy, but the fact is that only looking for that presentation dismisses a lot of people.”

Coppens said he never started learning about ADHD until he was 34, with the help of a friend, who had herself been diagnosed at 32. Her friend and repeatedly told others she felt something was different about her and her brand. Coppens notes that this same friend recognized similar things in him and together they listened to expert podcasts, as well as she shared some reading and recommendations that led her to getting the help she needed.

“I ended up getting medication, which I have been on for three years. I did not have a family doctor and I repeatedly encountered barriers to getting a diagnosis and help.”

The playwright affirms that he wanted to write a play that spoke honestly to ADHD experiences, so he interviewed adults of a variety of genders with ADHD, and adults from different backgrounds.

“Because ADHD is not just one thing (as you likely know, there are inattentive, hyperactive, and combined presentations, and they manifest differently) and quite frankly, males are still diagnosed at a higher rate than female-presenting people. And I felt that if I am a male and I got didn't get diagnosed and didn't get the help I needed, then surely there were many other people out there who also didn't get the help they needed.”

This play gives voice to a range of experiences, and also lets people know that they are not alone.

“I think one of the most important things to know when you're struggling with mental health or neurodivergence, is that there are people out there like you, and you are not alone. And you are not broken. I wanted to showcase all the things ADHD people go through, but do it in a way that was celebratory of the ADHD experience and that gave people hope that they could get help. Because for all the systemic issues, there are still good resources and good people out there and that it is possible to be validated and understood,” adds Coppens

Music is an important element in the play as for Coppens, he says that music is a language he understands, that makes sense to his brain and it’s where he goes when everything else is a mess. Coppens affirms that music is a big part of how he regulates himself.

“It also is my way of saying to the world, "You think ADHDers can't focus on anything? We're lazy? Well look at this. I have put in the work and studied this for 35 years, and I can sit at the piano and absolutely lose hours every day. I can focus on this. I can focus on things I'm passionate about. And I work hard at them. To me, it dispels some of the negative stereotypes about us. “

Coppens also believes that ADHD is misunderstood. Neurodivergence and mental health are misunderstood. And because of that, people with ADHD - especially ones who were diagnosed after childhood - do not get the support they need. Although, he notes that people are getting better at understanding access when it comes to physical disability (although we still have a very long way to go0, but when it comes to supports for mental health issues, far from where we need to be. 

‘I Have No Idea” is a two-person play that includes Coppens and a friend. The director is Traci Foster who is the founder/Artistic Director of Listen to Dis’, Saskatchewan’s first and only disability-led arts organization. The play had a run in Regina last year and it was the best-selling show with On Cue Performance Hub so the group is now bringing it to Saskatoon.

“Every member of this teams identifies as neurodivergent.”

“There are many neurodivergent people within the arts community, and the more we talk about mental and physical disorders and disability, the more we realize how many of us there are and how arts organizations need to do a better job of creating accessibility for everyone. Creating more accessible, sustainable, and healthy practices is key not just for arts organizations and artists, but the broader community as well.”

Coppens says reception has been phenomenal with many audience members who attended multiple times, and subsequently brought family and friends, who either identified with the show or felt they needed to see it for a better understanding. This creative team said they learned of at least 16 people who saw the show then followed up to see if an ADHD diagnosis was needed.

“That was fantastic! It was wonderful to see ‘my side’ of the world and experience of ADHD. Thanks for all you bring into the world!” Tracy Knutson. Another review Coppens shared said, “This show was just what I needed to see. I’m not alone! I relate to everything in it. I’m coming back to see it and telling everyone else I know to do the same.”

Coppens said one of the key messages for audience members to take away is that the world shouldn’t be a one-size-fits-all place.

“I think people don't really realize how much of a struggle making art actually is, and what the costs are. Even with the support of those organizations and Live Five, who's presenting the show, the cost is high. And ticket sales don't come close to covering anything. And the sad thing is that there are many people who advise people with ADHD to go into the arts because they're creative. And the reality is that art is great. Music is great. Theatre is great. Every art form can be great.”

Coppens acknowledges that this is not a story of trauma but rather a story of hope, friendship, music and neurodiversity.

Presenting to high schools is a potential possibility with Coppens saying, “I think the more we can do to support and give voice to the ADHD experience, the more good we can do.”

The show used an original script and original songs, but is not a musical, although music is an integral part of the show, along with humour.

“People will laugh, they will cry, they will feel and they will think.”