In the Spring of 2015, I had a fun little idea to take a look at a rather popular boy-wizard’s story from the perspective of some of the less fortunate students who happened to join him for seven years of education. (If you haven’t caught on: Harry Potter, Hogwarts. Moving on.) That these students were probably quite a bit terrified, very consistently confused, and, perhaps, regretting their choice of magic school, became the crux of this particular tale. A second idea was that a certain red-haired best friend with a collection of sweaters would be played by a mop.
It was a quick leap to settle this play’s focus on the “Puffs”, whom pop culture has deemed the maybe-not-so-cool kids at this particular wizard school. (A sentiment that is changing, which is great!) I cracked open that septilogy of books, and dove into these background characters’ background lives. With a bit of imagination, it opened up the story in a brand new, fascinating way.
The creative team, the cast, and I got to work on this funny little idea in the fall of 2015 at the People’s Improv Theater where we were set to run for six performances. Two years later we’re Off-Broadway at New World Stages, and people from all over the world have come and seen us. Here’s seven reasons why you should come see it too,you know, if you’re not busy.
1. You’re a Potter Fan!
Puffs is the story of Wayne Hopkins: a regular boy who finds out he’s a wizard and goes to school in England where he makes two best friends and has adventures. This perhaps sounds familiar. But, Wayne is sorted as a Puff, he and the other Puffs simply want to learn how to be wizards and avoid attacks by evil wizards.
No matter your relationship to the series, there is something here for you. Puffs is essentially a Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead-style romp through this world of wizards. Familiar characters pop in and out, but audiences see a different side of key moments. “But don’t ruin the Potterverse form!” I hear you diehard fans shouting. Though there are plenty of references to the classic moments of the books and films, we did not take the easy route.We are fans, so we (very, very) meticulously combed through the series to make sure we never broke the rules of the world. Timelines always match up. Plus, you get new lessons and deep-cut wizard jokes.
2. You’re a Fan of Laughter And Maybe Went To A School At Some Point In Life And What’s This Potter Thing?
Yes, the play most certainly brims with familiar and non-familiar wizards, but it is ultimately a story about growing up,—which, I believe, we have all done at some point or other. It’s a story about going to school, trying to make friends, and not being very popular. There are bullies, you’re figuring yourself out, and all the while the most famous kid in the world sits next to you in class. This is adolescence through a wizard filter. Plenty of people with zero Potter knowledge have had fun with us, too. (This cast is too funny for you not to laugh.)
3. You Don’t Mind Maybe Feeling Some Other Emotions
Along with all of these wizard, and non-wizard related jokes, Puffs is full of heart. We set out to create a play, not just a parody. The characters are all fully realized. They go through difficult journeys. They deal with death, personal identity, relationships, and what it means to feel insignificant in the world at large. There may in fact be some tears in the end. Maybe. You don’t have to tell anyone if there are.
4. You’re Looking For Some Sweet ’90s References
One of the things I find so funny about the series is its deep (yet lesser discussed) rooting in the 1990s. Puffs celebrates the glory of the last decade, from NSync to Spice Girls to Free Willy.
5. You’d Like to Validate This Playwright’s Childhood Media Choices
Wayne is a big fan of all things sci-fi/fantasy, which, in a way, makes his being thrust into the limelight of his very own fantasy story, where he sadly is not the lead, a bit tragic. But a lot of the things Wayne references throughout are things I was a big fan of growing up—namely my very specific feelings on the quality ranking of the Mighty Ducks films. (D2 is better, duh.) There’s also a series of Rocky IV references, that I am always wonderfully impressed when someone gets. While it is the best Rocky movie, I don’t think a lot of people saw it as many times as I did. (I also am happy to concede, upon rewatching it early this year, it is in fact: NOT the best Rocky movie.)
6. You’d Like To Rethink What a “Parody” Can Be
We don’t use the word “parody” when talking about Puffs. This might seem odd, especially as we’ve heard wandering lawyers and Ministry folk muttering that word, and also, “fair use.” It shares all of the qualities that makes something a parody. But, we stick to “comedy” or just simply, “play.” The team comes from a downtown theatre background. We have all worked on some strange, weird, wonderful things, including a 4.5 hour long Saturday morning cartoon-inspired mega-adventure called Kapow-i GoGo. So when we set our eyes on this Potter idea, we moved towards a real story.
7. You’d Like to Be In a Room of Great People
Puffs attracts some of the most dedicated fans in the world. Some audience members have seen the show 16 times, which is mind-boggling. Fans have come cosplaying characters from our play. A fan has now multiple times, made us delicious cookies—hint, hint. Puffs has also expanded into two other plays (Nineteen Years Later and Dude, Where’s My Fantastic Beast?) which we occasionally do readings of at our fan appreciation nights, which are a true blast. Off-Broadway, our audience is a community and that’s really cool.
7 Part 2. You Are An Adult or a Child, or an Adult With a Child, or an Adult Without a Child
Puffs caters to grown-up Potter fans—adults who grew up with the books and movies. (Or adult who ignored the books and movies—we don’t discriminate.) However! We also have family-friendly matinees, which remove the cursing and a bit more, so the story can be enjoyed by all ages. For those who want more snogging, come in the evenings.
OR! Alternatively, if you are a Puff and you need reassurance that you, too, are in a cool house, come see this show and celebrate you.