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School Notes: Trumbull Troupe Aims High

  • Tim Hansen, as Wonderboy, hangs his head after a disappointing speech during a rehearsal of Super!<br/>(Valley News - Sarah Preistap)

    Tim Hansen, as Wonderboy, hangs his head after a disappointing speech during a rehearsal of Super!
    (Valley News - Sarah Preistap) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Writer Jodi Picoult shows the Trumbull House Troupe how to fly with the aid of a harness.<br/><br/>(Valley News — Sarah Priestap)

    Writer Jodi Picoult shows the Trumbull House Troupe how to fly with the aid of a harness.

    (Valley News — Sarah Priestap) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Tim Hansen, as Wonderboy, hangs his head after a disappointing speech during a rehearsal of Super!<br/>(Valley News - Sarah Preistap)
  • Writer Jodi Picoult shows the Trumbull House Troupe how to fly with the aid of a harness.<br/><br/>(Valley News — Sarah Priestap)

A highlight of participating in any production of the Trumbull Hall Troupe — the musical theater group for Upper Valley teens founded by bestselling author Jodi Picoult — is seeing the set for the first time.

That chance came Friday afternoon for the cast of Super!, the ninth original Trumbull Hall production directed by Picoult that opens tomorrow night at the Lebanon Opera House, the first time the group has performed in the venue. After arriving in the green room, Lebanon High School juniors and Super! cast members Jaclyn Pageau and Kate Haidari dashed up to the floor in front of the stage. They were blown away by the street scene depicting Townville, whose residents are routinely saved from calamity by the superhero Wonderboy.

“That is so cool!” Pageau said.

“Oh … my … gosh!” Haidari gasped.

“That’s so awesome,” Pageau added, “and terrifying at the same time.” Terrifying, Pageau explained moments later, because some actors in Super! will be jumping — well, flying with the help of harnesses — from the top of Townville’s skyscrapers.

But Pageau doesn’t have as much cause to be terrified as Tim Hansen, her Lebanon High classmate who plays Wonderboy, or Sammy van Leer, the Hanover High School senior (and Picoult’s daughter), who plays Tinkerbell. Their roles require them to step into a harness and fly over Townville, swooping down to save the day.

The audience this weekend will “see a great spectacle that they don’t often get to see in the Upper Valley. They’re going to see kids flying,” Picoult said.

That can be a terrifying prospect for an actor of any age. Van Leer, however, has no jitters. “I’m actually excited. My dad was like, aren’t you scared? But I don’t have a fear of heights, so I’ll be fine.”

Super! follows Wonder Boy through a period of disillusionment. Townville’s residents don’t always show appreciation, and lately his superhero powers have been hit or miss.

“He’s kind of jaded, I guess, because he hasn’t been completely successful in his life as a superhero, but he genuinely wants to help people,” Hansen said.

So Wonderboy decides to leave the hero’s life behind, dumping his spandex uniform in the trash, where Enid, a high school activist who admires him and desperately wants to save the world, finds it and decides to try her hand at superhero work. But Wonderboy doesn’t take to civilian life: the only job he can find is at an amusement park, Happy FunLand, playing himself. And Enid, played by Lebanon senior Ali Coombs, discovers that the superhero’s profession comes with high expectations. Then Tinkerbell, Wonderboy’s co-worker at Happy FunLand, gets in over her head when she tries to be a superhero, prompting Wonderboy to return to save Tink and Enid.

Super!, in Coombs’ view, “is really cool, because it’s about superheroes, and I feel like that’s an uplifting topic.”

Trumbull Hall’s exquisite sets, special effects, Picoult-penned dialogue that touches on the trials of being a teen, melodic songs written by Picoult and Ellen Wilber and philanthropy have emerged as hallmarks in the Trumbull Hall repertory. To date, the Trumbull Hall play, with cast members who come from a number of Upper Valley schools, have raised some $65,000 for organizations like David’s House, the Upper Valley Haven and the Zienzele Foundation, which supports orphans in rural Zimbabwe. The troupe has outgrown the hall in the Etna church where it first performed what Picoult called her “silly little play” with re-written Beatles lyrics eight years ago. And after Super! closes on Sunday, Picoult and Wilber will also make their exits from the troupe.

Picoult’s youngest child will be graduating from high school this year, and she’s ready to devote herself to other projects. The show will go on next year with Bill Sawyer, the director known for his work with North Country Community Theatre.

When the curtain comes down Sunday, Picoult said she will leave behind a legacy of young performers developing not only stage presence and public speaking skills, but confidence and belief in themselves. She calls it “an amazing gift to give kids skills that they can take on in life.”

“It’s been a great ride,” Picoult said, “and I can’t wait to see it as an audience member.”

Super! will be performed by the Trumbull Hall troupe at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday and at 3 p.m. Sunday at the Lebanon Opera House. To reserve tickets, visit www.trumbullhalltroupe.com.

NOTES

Peter Jasinski of Lebanon graduated magna cum laude from Yale University with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering, with Phi Beta Kappa honors. Jasinski received prizes for electrical engineering, intramural sports and outstanding participation and leadership.

∎ Carlene Fassett of Enfield, a student at Southern Maine University, has received a scholarship from Associated General Contractors of America. She is working toward a bachelor’s of science degree.

∎ The FIRST Robotics Team will hold an open house Saturday from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Catamount Center at Vermont Technical College. Starting in January, a team of high-schoolers will have six weeks to design and build a full-size robot that will compete in a regional competition. “Top of the line and cutting-edge technology is used,” say the organizers. For information, call Charlie Zani at 802-276-3224.

School Notes appears on Tuesdays. Email news and announcement to schoolnotes@vnews.com by 5 p.m. Thursday for possible inclusion the following Tuesday.

CORRECTION

This story has been amended to correct an earlier error. The following correction ran in the Wednesday, Nov. 7 edition of the Valley News:

The Trumbull Hall Troupe’s production of Super! will be performed at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday and at 3 p.m. Sunday at the Lebanon Opera House. Yesterday’s School Notes column gave the incorrect dates for the performance.