Actors play around with ‘Potter’ spoof
Mar 31, 2020 10:35AM
By Jet Burnham
The Puffs are a happy and friendly bunch. (Photo courtesy Malia Warden)
By Jet Burnham | [email protected]
Luke Gonzalez sometimes feels like a Puff—unimportant, destined for failure and resigned to last place.
“There have been times in my life where I've always wanted to do something big or be known as the hero, but I wasn't able to because someone else had been able to do that—and more,” he said.
This is the experience of Wayne Hopkins, the character Gonzalez played in Riverton High School’s performance of “Puffs.” Wayne is determined to become a hero when he discovers he has magical powers and is invited to attend a school of magic. Instead of glory, Wayne finds himself constantly overshadowed by a boy named Harry (played by senior Ari Curtis), the headmaster’s favorite student who always swoops in to save the day. Sound familiar?
The Off-Broadway hit, “Puffs or Seven Increasingly Eventful Years at a Certain School of Magic and Magic,” written by Matt Cox is an unauthorized spoof of J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter” story with creative work-around to alter characters and events just enough to avoid copyright infringement.
“There's lots of familiar characters, just with slightly different names,” said senior Annabelle Durham who played A Certain Potions Teacher, The Second Headmaster and Real Mr. Moody.
RHS theater teacher and play director Erin McGuire said there were strict instructions when referring to a certain character. “You can't say Harry or Potter in the same sentence,” she said. “So, it's ‘Mr. Potter’ or ‘Harry.’”
Nevertheless, fans in the audience easily caught the allusions to Potterverse characters and key events from the books and movies, which were shown from the perspective of the students sorted into Puffs, a house known for finishing last in everything.
The play was well-received by the community during the four performances Feb. 20–24. Some of the humor was only obvious to true Potterheads, many of whom arrived in costume. However, even those less familiar with the details of the original story, which included most of the cast, enjoyed the witty script and physical comedy of the show.
“It doesn't matter how much knowledge you have specifically about the universe of the show, you can still enjoy it,” said senior Sioteke Wolfgramm, who played several creatures in the show. “But there are a lot of really funny jokes that appeal for this fandom specifically. And it's just a lot of fun.”
What made the show even more fun to perform for actors was that the scriptwriter allowed flexibility with some of the lines.
“They gave us a bunch of different options,” said Emma Otis, a junior who played Hermeoone, Rowena and the Runes Teacher. “There was a monologue, and then you'd have 12 other things that you could say to choose from.”
Junior Ethan Smith, who played Zack Smith, the sports captain of the Puffs, played around with a scene in which he tried to pump-up his team for their inevitable last-place finish. Smith gave a different pep talk at each performance of the show. And even cast members were never quite prepared for what senior Sam Cooper, playing the villain Mr. Voldy, would do or say as he improvised lines into a toy megaphone each night.
The scriptwriter also encouraged the cast to alter lines to include local cities and the names of RHS teachers. McGuire said the actors had fun with such a flexible script—almost too much fun.
“I had to tell them they had to pass all of the improvised bits past me,” she said.
The flexibility and the audience’s reactions kept the show fresh for the actors.
“It's hard to rehearse comedies after a while; they kind of get old to you,” Durnham said. “Then you have an audience, and it's like, ‘Oh, yeah, this is why it's funny.’”
RHS is the first school in Jordan District to perform “Puffs,” which McGuire saw performed in New York.
“I just knew that it’s the show that is right for this group of people right now,” McGuire said.