Guest Post by Jenna Sherman
Yesterday, at a local Lexington preschool, I spent the first hour of my Monday morning frantically changing in and out of costumes that were pulled from a blue, raggedy bag roughly the height of a small adult. In periodic blurs I transformed from a giant mole to a rocket ship to a firefly to finally an astronaut. This is a weekly, if not bi-weekly or sometimes even tri-weekly occurrence for me and my ten co-performers—with varying costumes each time, of course. The name of this quirky cohort is the Tufts Traveling Treasure Trunk, a children’s theater group by trade, but with a bit of everything else in between.
Contrary to popular belief this does not mean that we are a theater group comprised of children, though at times that definition is applicable, rather we are a theater group comprised of Tufts students who perform plays for kids in schools, daycares, and other places kids are likely to be. The plays we put on are written by one, or two, or a few, “trunkers,” as we call ourselves, and then staged, costumed, directed, and performed by all of TRUNK! (as we like to spell it) as a hilariously goofy and loving unit. Each semester we have two plays in our repertoire, carrying one over from the preceding semester; and interspersed between these plays, which last around 10 minutes, are segments (“segues”) as well as songs. These segues are short skits which contain base premises but which almost always involve improvisation that at times can have me laughing harder than the kids in the audience.
Though I was aware of this to some extent prior to joining Trunk, my main takeaway from every show, rehearsal, or other various form of a Trunk gather is that there is truly nothing more liberating than “acting like a kid,” by whatever definition that means to you. For me, it is losing all inhibitions, all hesitations. Whether it’s a noise, movement, or an idea, the opportunity to just put something out into the universe with no concern of correctness or scrutiny can yield boundless levels of creativity—especially in a group, but also individually. At least speaking for myself, it’s astonishing how much you can surprise yourself and exceed your own arbitrary expectations by simply diving into the unknown and rolling with it. And this opportunity is one that many of us do not have, or do not feel that we have, in college but also our entire lives besides, well childhood—where even then that freedom is not available to everyone.
And I feel that is what I find most inspiring about this group I’m in, comprised of incredible individuals who I continue to learn from daily, as well as all forums that encourage creativity among children: it shows kids that this sense of curiosity, imagination, weirdness, does not have to be lost with age. That those are not characteristics limited to a certain period of life. I feel this is vital as I continue to realize the extent to which I have been socialized to believe that—to conditionally think that emotion, vulnerability, and deviation from the norm is a sense of weakness rather than what it actually should be: empowerment.
Even still I often struggle to truly lose all fear of embarrassment and go out on limbs. It’s irrational fears that perhaps I am not being “the right type of creative” or not reaching a certain level of comedy. And I think a significant aspect of this is the fact that I’m not implementing this outside of Trunk in other areas of my life. At the end of the Monday show, a little girl came up to us and handed us a piece of paper with a scribbled rainbow and the word “happy” written on the outside. In retrospect I’m realizing how happy I was in that moment (that we got a drawing from a cute kid of course), but also that we were just goofing off and making up ideas on the spot and that it produced something not only enjoyable and meaningful for kids but also for ourselves and our own well-being. I want to hold myself accountable to do this more: to say yes to more, to take risks, to dive into discomfort and put myself out there—and especially to strive to be happy with whatever comes out of it.