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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Saturday, December 9, 2023

Seniors of Trunk celebrate 4 years of finding joy in children’s theater, performance

Graduating seniors Josh Leferman, Sami Kelleher, Ruth Greenfield and Madeleine Porter of Traveling Treasure Trunk, Tufts' children’s theater troupe, are pictured on May 2.

Traveling Treasure Trunk is unlike any other student group at Tufts. In fact, they might just have more fun than anyone else on campus.

Tufts’ oldest children’s theater troupe, known to many as “Trunk,” has been entertaining children at local daycares, preschools and hospitals with original skits, songs and plays since 1987. In their final months at Tufts, the four graduating seniors of Trunk reflected on their experiences in the group over the last four years.

The journey of every “Trunker” starts with an audition. The seniors of Trunk talked about why they decided to try out as first-years and described their own audition experiences. For senior Joshua Leferman, it was a performance during his first-year orientation week that introduced him to the group.

“It was beginning of freshman year, and I really had no idea what I was doing. … And then I saw Trunk at the O-Show,” Leferman said. “Now, I believe that I was one of like two people in the audience who found that funny, but I found it so funny. And I was like, that is a group of people that I want to be a part of.”

While many discovered Trunk in their first weeks at Tufts, senior Samantha Kelleher knew she wanted to join Trunk before she was even on campus.

“In high school, I was involved with children’s theater,” Kelleher said. “That was actually a huge part of why I wanted to come to Tufts. I actually wrote about Trunk in my ‘Why Tufts’ essay.”

Trunkers write, direct and design costumes for all of their performances, and the troupe is constantly building on the work of former members, taking old stories from past years of Trunk and making them their own.

“We write new content every year, and some of it stays and some of it doesn’t,” senior Ruth Greenfield said. “The one thing that always changes is we write a play every semester. And that’s always different. But it’s fun. The content lasts for ages.”

The most rewarding part of Trunk? According to the seniors, it’s the joy of performing for kids that makes it all worth it.

“My favorite part of Trunk is always the kids,” Leferman said. “It’s always been the kids, [and] it always will be the kids. … The nice thing about performing for kids is that kids are — for the most part — a judge-free zone.”

Kelleher echoed this sentiment, explaining the fun of tapping into a youthful silliness.

“You can’t embarrass yourself around kids because they just love the ridiculousness of everything,” she said. “So it’s just being as chaotic and silly as possible, which is something that you don’t get that often in college.”

The seniors also discussed how Trunk has evolved as a group over the years. The club was made up of just a few seniors when current senior Madeline Porter joined in 2018, and after those seniors graduated in 2019, the group was led by an entirely new cohort of first-years and sophomores. Porter, who has now been a member of Trunk for five years, reflected on the changes the club has made.

“All the traditions that we knew were taught to us by those two seniors and the little bits and pieces that we got from the other members [in] fall 2018,” Porter said. “Because everyone kind of got immediately replaced by entirely new people who had no idea what was going on, we changed a lot of the traditions.”

One of the biggest changes was Trunk’s leadership structure. Instead of the traditional hierarchy, Trunk has adopted a task-based structure with roles like Truncle — the social chair, short for “Trunk’s fun uncle” — and Biz Lightyear, the business manager.

“We have positions that you run for every semester, but we don’t have a president,” Greenfield said. “We’re a horizontal group, and that’s been really nice.”

The seniors also discussed the challenges of adapting to the pandemic. After being sent home in  2020, Trunk began performing for students over Zoom in spring 2021.

“We basically did everything virtually,” Leferman said. “All of the shows took place in our rooms, to the detriment of all of our roommates. So you can imagine at 9 in the morning when we’re going to kindergartens and preschools and making loud, weird noises … and the audience would be whoever decided to show up on Zoom.”

For many of the seniors, Trunk was a vital support system during the early months of the pandemic.

“Trunk, for me, over [the COVID-19 pandemic], was honestly just a really great social thing to have,” Kelleher said. “It was nice to have people to text, to have that support system outside of your little pod.”

Last year, Trunk celebrated its 35th anniversary, and this April, they held a reunion event on campus that brought together Trunkers of past and present for a day of celebration and performance. Trunk took advantage of its strong network of alumni to organize the event and reconnect with former members of the group.

“We invited everyone who we could find who had been in Trunk in the past 35 years and we met in [Curtis Hall], and for four hours we played games,” Greenfield said. “We did a Trunk show where people signed up on a whiteboard to perform little skits. … You’d have people who are in Trunk currently performing with people from 10 years ago.”

Many of the seniors plan to apply the skills they’ve learned in Trunk to their future jobs after graduation. Greenfield and Leferman are interested in pursuing careers in education, and Kelleher wants to work in children’s television. The seniors shared their gratitude for the time they’ve spent in Trunk, and talked about the joy that Trunk brought to their college experiences.

“I came into college in not the best spot,” Leferman said. “And for me, Trunk was an outlet to be able to … really talk about what was going on in my life, and for that I’ll always be grateful. So yeah, my life would be much worse without Trunk.”