PITTSFIELD — As a kid growing up in New York’s Bronx borough, Ty Allan Jackson “kind of wanted” to be a superhero.
His imagination was fueled by the daring exploits of the heroes and superheroes he read about in comic books; saw on giant movie screens.
It wasn’t until the first “Spider-Man” movie with its young hero behind the mask, Peter Parker, that Jackson thought that maybe, just maybe, he could become a superhero.
Now, at the age of 53, those dreams, those what-if-maybes have become a reality of sorts for the Pittsfield author. Jackson’s notions infuse the first two books in what may well become a franchise — “The Supadupa Kid” (self-published in 2012) and, now, its sequel, “The Supadupa Kid 2: Move,” published last year by Jackson’s Big Head Books.
Barrington Stage Company had commissioned a musical stage treatment of “The Supadupa Kid,” which was to have been produced by BSC’s Youth Theatre this summer but the production was canceled — as was the entire season — due to the coronavirus pandemic. It will be produced, in all likelihood, in 2022, according to BSC Artistic Director Julianne Boyd.
However, “The Supadupa Kid 2,” comes to life sooner than that — a virtual reading premieres, free, Thursday on YouTube, where it will be available indefinitely. Complete information is available on the Barrington Stage website — barringtonstageco.org.
Boyd has directed a cast of community members — youths and adults — from the Berkshires and environs, ranging north from Great Barrington to Bennington in Vermont and east to New York’s Capital Region.
The cast includes West Dews as the Supadupa Kid, better known to everyone as Javon Williams; Aiden Kelley as his supergenius best friend, Ronald; and Deisy Escobar as Javon’s new friend, Maya Gonzalez, who, thanks to an amulet given to her by her grandmother, has powers of her own. Together, the three combat a sinister foe, Dark Matter, who wields power over gravity and invisibility.
Sara Reese is narrator. Boyd said Pittsfield Mayor Linda Tyer makes a special appearance.
With Barrington Stage Company’s summer and fall season at loose ends because of COVID-19, Boyd said she was looking for something Barrington Stage could produce for the community.
Jackson gave her a copy of the book. The abundance of dialogue and the fact that the book draws on Black and Latinx cultures appealed to Boyd.
Rehearsals were arranged to accommodate the other commitments of its young actors. The reading was filmed in segments over two weekends in November with the actors performing from their individual spaces.
“The Supadupa Kid” is an origin story — how the Supadupa Kid came to be; how he acquired his superpowers; how a “skinny kid with ... big dimples” who liked nothing more than playing baseball and listening to music came to be his small city’s No. 1 crime-stopper.
“The Supadupa Kid 2: Move” takes place one year after the first book. The crime rate in fictional LiWttletown, N.Y., is substantially down because all the bad guys know better than to mess with The Kid.
“What could be more awesome than having superpowers?” Javon muses in “Supadupa Kid 2’s” prologue. “I can shoot lightning bolts outta my hands. KABOOM! I can fly. SWISH! And all the girls think my outfit is cute ...
“And with the streets safe from criminals, and no villains with powers like mine tearing the city apart, I can just be a normal kid ... “
Life is calm. Life is good.
Until it isn’t.
Jackson is a jack of many trades and master of them all — literacy advocate; motivational speaker; TedX presenter; financial literacy coach; father of three; husband; writer. Actually, he said by telephone, “I’m not a writer. I’m a storyteller.” And a fine one at that. Both books are smartly paced and plotted; vivid in their establishment of place, character and events. The clashes between heroes and villains, especially the climactic tangle with Dark Matter, are gripping.
Jackson also is an educator by trade; that skill hides in plain sight in both books. That should come as little surprise coming from a writer who loved going to school. The spirit around learning “was cool. Being smart,” he said, “was really cool.”
To that extent, Javon is not the only superhero in “The Supadupa Kid” books. Jackson sees intellect as a superpower. The triumph in “Supadupa Kid 2” is more mind than muscle over matter. And so, Jackson said, “Ronald is my favorite. I think he’s someone everyone can relate to. He’s a kind of a fun, dorkey character.” A freakish accident of nature gives Javon his superpowers, but without Ronald he would not have become the Supadupa Kid. “He’s arguably the smartest kid on the planet,” Javon says of Ronald at the opening of “Supadupa Kid 2.” “Without him, there would be no way I would have defeated Hoody, my arch-enemy from school last year.”
Characters in the Supadupa Kid books — yes, Jackson is at work on a third — may lift off the ground but they don’t fly out of sight. Just as Peter Parker seemed within the range of possibility for the young Jackson, the adult Jackson believes his characters are within the range of possibility for his young — and adult — readers.
“This isn’t some far-out, far-fetched construct,” Jackson said. “To me, it seems somewhat plausible, possible.
“Javon, Maya and Ronald are every one of us. These are kids you know; we know.”
“I wrote this for fun,” Jackson said after a momentary pause. He took another; then, “I can’t express how much I love writing.”