Inside the Creative Minds of “Puffs”
If you’re unfamiliar with Puffs: or Seven Increasingly Eventful Years at a Certain School of Magic and Magic, I recommend you read our review here before continuing.
As the Puffs: or Seven Increasingly Eventful Years at a Certain School of Magic and Magic fan that I am, the opportunity to chat with the creative minds was one I immediately latched onto. Earlier last week, I attended their second Fan Appreciation night, which included a reading of their project Dude, Where’s My Fantastic Beast?, and I was howling with laughter. As a host of the Fantastic Beasts podcast, SpeakBeasty, every joke was even more appreciated considering the months of discussions I’ve had with my fellow hosts. Even cracks at the MTA and Staten Island were well received by the New York City-living crowd.
I spoke with director Kristin McCarthy Parker and playwright Matt Cox about their personal theater journeys, the development of Puffs, and what comes next.
“We had no idea that it would be this hit,” said Parker since when Puffs initially opened, there were only five performances scheduled. More performances kept being added as the show kept selling out. Originally starting at the PIT (Peoples Improv Theater), the show ran for nine months before moving to the Elektra Theater, where it ran an additional nine months. Today it plays at New World Stages.
Cox grew up alongside Harry, winning the first few novels in the series at the Scholastic Book Fair after earning enough points for completing reading assignments. He hadn’t thought much of the story after the series ended but always felt it could be fun to play in that world, especially from the perspective of the other students.
He mentioned interest after his previous show has finished, and the people at PIT were interested. They offered him a slot weeks later, and he had nothing written, which led to him writing the first half within a week. They did the reading, and it took off from there. Cox and Parker knew each other from the Flea, as did most of the crew and cast, and things started falling into place while Cox continued writing for the next couple of months.
There was a stint where for a summer they workshopped the show at the University of Florida, which is where the play fully formed into what it is today. They added depth to one of the main characters, Megan, with a separate plotline about her mother that is purely original and separate from the Potter canon.
I asked Parker what the hardest part of staging the show was, and she explained that they didn’t want to do something people already knew. In Book 3, attendees get a look at soul-sucking security guards, and the cleverness of strobe lights, fade-ins, and blackouts make the experience completely unique.
It’s always been important for the fans to like the show, especially with every change they’ve made over the past two years. To thank their fans, they’ve done a series of spin-off shows such as 19 Years Later and Dude, Where’s My Fantastic Beast? They’ve even done wrock shows with local bands.
Before I let them go, I wanted to make sure to ask them for some of their favorite moments from the show. Parker’s favorite Puff is Hannah, a socially awkward girl who doesn’t fully understand when someone is bullying her or not. And as for Parker’s House? She identifies between a Puff and a Smart (Ravenclaw). As for Cox, his favorite Puffs are Wayne and J. Finch, and he’s a Puff through and through.
They still have some tricks up their sleeve, and Cox’s favorite scene is a spoiler, but it includes the Headmaster and Wayne. One day, he even hopes to bring all of his characters from his Potter parodies together. Parker told me that the entire crew feels “continuously surprised and delighted” by the success the show has endured since its beginning and is hoping to stick around for as long as it can. After all, come 2018, they’ll be the longest-running Potter play in Manhattan. Take that, Cursed Child.