By Tristan E. M. Leach
Magic was already in the air as the last of the audience members squeezed into The Spitz Theater in Fine Arts. The house lights went down and a feeling of anticipation filled the room. It was time for Rider Student Theatre Company’s (RSTC) production of “Puffs.”
This past weekend, RSTC put on the charming and funny Harry Potter spoof show called “Puffs.” The show is narrated by an unnamed, omniscient woman who helps tell the story of a boy named Wayne Hopkins, a character that mirrors the much more well-known Harry Potter in almost every way. Wayne’s only issue? He’s a “Puff,” or a “Hufflepuff,” as they are better known. The young boy is determined to make a name for himself with his two friends, Megan Jones, a goth girl whose mother is a death eater, and Oliver Rivers, a mathematician wizard from New Jersey that everyone knows, loves and admires.
The show condenses all seven books into a 90 minute show. “Puffs” had a small cast with a total of 21 people for the production. This included Ava Hojnowski, a freshman acting major, who was the understudy for the role of Megan Jones. Hojnowski had always been interested in the show and was excited when she saw that “Puffs” was going to be produced at Rider.
“It [being an understudy] was a big learning experience for me because it was my first time being an understudy ever. It was a lot of observing and brainstorming how I wanted to make this character different from the overstudy who played it [the role of Megan],” said Hojnowski. “It was a lot of fun making the character my own and just adding little differences here and there. I got to make her mine.”
“Puffs” most certainly allows for creative freedom as the characters made several references to faculty of the theater department at Rider. One such improv moment referenced Robin Lewis, associate professor in musical theater dance, and his ab workout. The show also references spells and characters from its source material.
Armed with wands and black caps, the actors take to the stage to be the best wizards and witches they can be. Or they’ll settle for third place: either way, they’re happy. Or at least that’s what Cedric Diggory, played by Javier Santos Benito, a senior film and television major, tells them. The engaging and hilarious show shines the light on a house that was virtually unimportant in the original books.
For people like Hailey Tedesco, the sound board operator for the production, “Puffs” is more than just a funny show. Tedesco found a home with RSTC and was happy to find a place to hone and refine her skills.
Tedesco, a freshman arts and entertainment industries management major, said, “Anytime there’s a sound cue, I’ll go to hit the sound and it’ll play. I have to make sure it’s at the right volume so you can still hear the actors. This show specifically has sounds that go straight into others and its music over spells over funny comic book sound effects.”
Those sound effects added to the already hilarious and odd predicaments in which the actors found themselves during the show. The audience members were holding their ribs from laughter, and some could not keep from making some commentary out loud. For people like Hojnowski and Tedesco, this is what it is all about.
Though Wayne doesn’t get Harry Potter’s happy ending, dying right before Harry makes his way to the heavenly train station, the show teaches the audience that everyone is a secondary character in someone else’s story, but also a hero in someone else’s.