Cursed Child Release: A Night of Nostalgia
Nine years. That’s how long it’s been since we’ve eagerly waited in line to get our hands on a book at midnight. Looking around the bookstore floor, the realization hit me that about a third of the fans gathered to celebrate the release of Cursed Child were likely not even born when Deathly Hallows hit bookstore shelves. As time passes, things are bound to change, but a lot also stays exactly the same. We (Amy and Lizzie) would like to share with you the differences and similarities in a Harry Potter midnight party after a lapse of nine years.
There were some major differences in play on July 31, 2016. There was no line out the door and around the building, no police patrolling the parking lot, and no countdown at either of the Barnes & Noble Booksellers that we attended. Everything was a little more subdued than it used to be. Sure, there was still excitement in a few different forms. There was the childlike excitement of the 11-year-olds who were experiencing their first-midnight release party and the more level-headed excitement of the adults who were happy to be among other fans once more, but it was nothing like the constant buzz and palpable tension of previous book releases.
Vestal, New York (Amy)
The biggest difference in the mood was the presence of nostalgia. At the Deathly Hallows release, we were all so focused on looking ahead to see how Harry’s path would progress and eventually end, but at the Cursed Child release, there was an unmistakable theme of reflecting on the past. Almost every interaction I had with fans produced a line similar in tone to, “I’m here because Harry Potter means so much to me. It’s something that my friends and I bonded over, and we couldn’t miss the chance to be at another midnight release like old times.” Even the activities around the stores focused on the nostalgia of Potter. Some bookstore locations had “Muggle Walls,” encouraging fans to write what Harry Potter means to them. While the MuggleNet team also provided #PotterItForward banners, calling for fans to leave messages to the next generation of Potter readers, most of the notes left behind were reflective in nature, giving insight into the childhoods of now-grown Potter fans.
Something that was a surprise was the number of young fans in attendance. Learning that so many kids under the age of 13 have been welcomed into the Harry Potter fandom was both a pleasant surprise and one that made me feel old. While in a conversation with one young girl, I learned that she was two years old when Deathly Hallows was released. This caught me completely off guard since I don’t usually consider myself elderly at 22 years old, but this piece of information made me instantly feel like a grandma.
The evening was a great mixture of activities. There were spelling bees, trivia challenges, and dueling lessons (provided by myself and fellow Creative Team member Stephanie) among many other magical events scattered throughout the store. Staff members got in on the fun by dressing up. Their Trelawney and McGonagall costumes were spot on.
Once the festivities were over, it was time to head home and push through that all-too-familiar reading marathon. My nostalgia from the midnight party carried through into my reading of the script, and I found myself laughing and feeling emotional throughout. It may not be one of the original seven novels, but opening up those pages and seeing the character names printed in new ink made me feel like I was seeing an old friend again for the first time in a very long time. It really was the perfect way to celebrate Harry and J.K. Rowling’s birthdays.
Carle Place, New York (Lizzie)
In Carle Place, New York, I spoke with one of the staff members running the event about her opinion on the turnout, specifically in terms of the age demographics. I myself had been curious to see if I would be surrounded by 25+-year-olds or if J.K. Rowling’s magic had trickled down to the next generation of Potter fans. Would I be in a mix of preteens, excited to have an opportunity to attend a Potter book premiere? But for her, everything was as she expected, explaining that the store anticipated mass numbers of younger children and adults, and they planned well for their audience. A maze based on the Triwizard Tournament, including a makeshift Voldemort, a live game of wizard chess, and trivia covered the two-story building to keep fans entertained until midnight. I later asked the same staffer if she had worked a midnight release before, and her tale touched my heart. Growing up in a strict religious community, there were no midnight releases for any of the Potter series, so she and a few friends traveled to another town to experience what they believed may be the last night of book magic.
Perhaps the most wonderful aspect of the evening was the aura of a surprise because we were all back in a bookstore waiting for a story about a boy wizard with a scar on his forehead, The cleverness of the script being released at midnight on July 31 cannot be ignored. While a countdown to zero was absent in both spots, at the stroke of midnight, the patrons of Carle Place began singing “Happy Birthday” to the man and woman of the hour, Harry Potter and J.K. Rowling. I can still feel the heart palpitations from the cashier handing my copy over to me. It felt familiar, it felt old, and it felt just like home.
Opinions on Cursed Child may range, but that night was truly something special as fans were able to enjoy the moment of uncertainty and wonder, just as they did nine years ago. My own sister attended this event with me, her first-ever because she was too young for the final Potter book releases, and at the end of the night, she asked if she could come with me to more. It was truly heartbreaking and heartwarming to know that there would be no more (for now). However, it gave me faith that Potter will continue to generate new readers and fans.
Much has changed in the past nine years, but so much has remained the same. Harry Potter fans will always turn out to celebrate the book series that has meant so much to them over the years, people will willingly wait for hours in a bookstore for some pages and binding, and new readers will continue to become enthralled with the boy wizard and his magical adventures.