“Potterversity” Episode 8: “The Puffs’ Perspective – Part 2”
Our Puffs-palooza continues as we talk with some of the talented people behind the play Puffs.
We continue our conversation about the wonderful fan re-envisioning of the Harry Potter series – the off-Broadway play Puffs. Emily and Katy discuss with Matt Cox (Puffs creator) and Stephen Stout (Puffs actor and producer) the creative process behind the making of the play. Note: This episode contains spoilers for the play.
Matt and Stephen explain how they became fans of Harry Potter and then fan creators. Matt tells us how he came up with the idea for the play, and Stephen how he became a “fandom anthropologist,” especially by visiting Universal’s Wizarding World theme park in preparation for working on the play, which convinced him they had to be “responsible in their fooling” because of how much the series means to fans. Interested in the nostalgic expression of pop culture, Matt embraced the tragic and comic aspects of the Harry Potter series and the way the Puffs’ perspective magnifies those elements. He played on the idea that kids reading the series as it came out imagined themselves getting a Hogwarts letter; that moment was rooted in the culture of the 1990s and those fans’ memories of their growing-up years.
They also share how they made an alternate universe that echoes Harry’s world and how social media helped the show take off in popularity. As the audience grew, Matt was able to tweak the show in response to audience reactions. The show started as more of a comedy, but the story developed more fully to develop its emotional heart. Stephen reveals some of the alternate endings of the play and how they adjusted it as time went on. Matt and Stephen explain the advantages of theater as a medium that takes the audience on a full journey, allows actors to play multiple parts (like Cedric and Voldemort), and creates the magic of the wizarding world with only a few small cues to the audience. They reveal how some of the funniest moments of the show were created.
Puffs creates a shared experience between actors and audience that brings excitement and joy. As Puffs is performed in different US states and in Australia, the producers have encouraged making changes to adapt the references so that the audience is always in on the joke. The “rough magic,” improvisation, and adaptability of the show are central to its success.
Despite the satire and playful critiques, Matt and Stephen emphasize the earnest parts of Puffs that make it a love letter to the Harry Potter series. How do we interact with Harry Potter as responsible fans? Stephen and Matt talk about navigating changes in the fandom by adding elements to Puffs and its additional, related stories that major movie franchises perhaps do not have the courage to do. Emily asks about how Puffs pushes the envelope on the Harry Potter underdog narrative in showing us other underdog perspectives we may not have considered.
Don’t miss this smart and hilarious conversation revealing the behind-the-scenes story of the off-Broadway play Puffs. Check out more fun from these talented folks at the Ultra Corporation on YouTube!