“Potterversity” Episode 7: “The Puffs’ Perspective”
Join us for the beginning of our Puffs-palooza!
In this episode, we talk with Dr. Melissa Aaron and Dr. Lauren Camacci about the off-Broadway play Puffs – how you can see it at home, why you should see it (if you haven’t already), and why we love it so much. Warning: Spoilers abound in this episode!
Puffs imagines the seven-book Harry Potter series in a compressed timeline and from the perspective of students in Hufflepuff in those same years. This is a fan fiction approach that Henry Jenkins calls refocalization, which retells a story from the perspective of marginalized characters to provide new insights. Melissa, a theater historian who saw the play in New York, explains how the in-person play experience is different from seeing it on film, and we consider whether the play is satire, parody, or something else, and what makes it so funny.
It creates an in-group experience for fans and millennials. Bringing Muggle pop culture, including fantasy geekdom, into Hogwarts corrects a gap in the original series. The character of Hufflepuff Oliver reminds us that a good student in the Muggle world would not necessarily be good in magic and that Hogwarts lacks basic education high schoolers of all kinds need, including math and sex ed (the latter hilariously taught by Professor Snape (Stephen Stout) in Puffs).
Lauren points out that the play’s portrayal of Harry highlights his privilege and the favoritism he receives, especially from Dumbledore, making us question his character and examine the everyday heroism of his Puffs parallel, Wayne, whom Melissa calls “the Unchosen One.” In celebrating more mundane moral qualities (friendship, kindness, bravery, sacrifice) – absent the greater save-the-world destiny – Puffs truly gets to the heart of the Harry Potter series.
Are you a Puff? Are you such a Puff? We talk about the Hufflepuff House identity and how perceptions of it may have changed. Seeing Cedric’s death from the Hufflepuff perspective provides a point of view that makes us read the original Harry Potter books differently. We compare Cedric’s characterization in Puffs and in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child and discuss the two plays more generally, pondering which seems more true to the spirit of the original character and book series. Each play provides a different theater experience, and even the commercial aspects of the two productions differ. Dear listener, which of these two plays do you prefer? Share your thoughts with us!
In a fascinating listener follow-up, our Owl Post segment poses questions about wand violence based on Potterversity Episode 4: “Violence and Civilization.”
Stay tuned for our next episode, in which we talk with Puffs creator Matt Cox and actor Stephen Stout! You will not want to miss our conversation.