“We are not a threat. Please be our friends!” Freshman-sophomore play spoofs Harry Potter in “Puffs”

All the cast and crew members of the show “Puffs,” who performed live on Jan. 27-28 in the LHS Studio Theater, gather around to take a selfie with Mr. Thomas, the theater director. Sophomore Michael Harris, who played Cedric, felt a great sense of community within the cast and crew, despite being relatively new to theater. “Everyone’s just been super kind to me,” Harris said. “They’ve all just been super encouraging and helpful and it’s just [been a] fun experience.”

On Jan. 27-28, the LHS theater department presented the 2023 freshman-sophomore play, “Puffs,” at 7:30 p.m. in the studio theater. The play was directed by theater and English teacher Mr. Christopher Thomas, assistant director Miss Maddie Martorana and senior student director Cris Montero.

Described on the LHS theater website as, “a tale for anyone who has never been destined to save the world,” the play comedically spoofed the well-known Harry Potter story through the perspectives of the “Puffs” of the Hufflepuff house.

The play was chock-full of Harry Potter references as the story was told through the seven years of the Harry Potter series, which had the crowd laughing consistently throughout. At its core, however, the play captured the coming of age of three kids learning to embrace their identities.

And of course, there was plenty of magic. In conjunction with the acting itself, creative special effects, including wands that lit up and lighting cues that flashed different colors of lights on stage, contributed to the illusion of magic.

As the name suggests, the frosh-soph play consists of exclusively underclassmen, from the performers onstage, to the set crew, to the lighting and sound booth operators. The purpose of the play is to give experience to younger performers, in contrast to an all-inclusive musical typically featuring upperclassmen as well.

As an upperclassman with an important task, Montero learned a lot from his experience as the student director. “Learning to collaborate with different people with different experiences has been really insightful,” Montero said.

Despite not knowing much about the Harry Potter world at first, Montero, through his role as a student director, learned a lot from the cast and was able to connect over the characters in the “Puffs” setting.

“I love it because the focus is less on what I have to do for the show, but how I can help others contribute to the show,” Montero said. “It definitely feels like I’m able to pass down other things that I’ve learned and kind of just help the LHS theater community as a whole.”

Among the performers he helped direct were the leads of the show: freshman Marley Herchenbach, sophomore River Thompson and sophomore Addy Burens. The trio portray the main “Puffs” protagonists: the eager Wayne Hopkins, the cerebral Oliver Rivers and the jaded Megan Jones, respectively.

This was Herchenbach’s first lead role, and the whole experience strengthened her deep-rooted love for theater.

“I love the friends I’ve made,” Herchenbach said. “Obviously, you don’t get a lead role every time, but I liked learning to find each way that every character gets influenced by different situations.”

This paralleled Burens’ mindset, who also found herself stepping foot into unfamiliar grounds as her character Megan.

“She is so out of my comfort zone,” Burens said, “but it’s so great to get out of my comfort zone. I’m up to try anything. I honestly love it.”

Mirroring both Burens and Herchenbach, Thompson had immense love for the show and his peers, as well as experiencing something new. Thompson, who had performed in this year’s musical “Grease,” as well as last year’s frosh-soph play, felt less nervous for this play. As for when he was on stage, the feeling of adrenaline remained the same.

“You’ve got your heart pumping and all you can think of is your lines and what you’re doing,” Thompson said. “There’s nothing else on your mind. It’s just how to get it done in the best way possible.”

To provide context to certain references and lines in order for those on stage to make informed acting choices, the play’s dramaturge, freshman Kaitlin Andersen was in charge of researching background information to give to the actors. This helped with the comedic delivery throughout the play.

“It makes it easier to just commit to [the roles] and know which jokes we’re supposed to make,” said Herchenbach, who also did outside research for her role.

Evidently, other behind the scenes aspects of the show such as props and lighting contributed valuably to the show.

Sophomore stage manager Wren Frey had a vital role in the production. Her duties include, but are not limited to writing down how scenes are blocked, assisting with scripts and helping with light design.

Being stage manager gave Frey meaningful insight into the necessary communication, time commitment and leadership it takes to keep the show running smoothly.

“Working under pressure is something that I haven’t really had to do before and I’ve realized that I work pretty well under pressure,” Frey said. “I’ve gotten a lot better at leadership and time management.”

Alongside her, sophomore Brendan Hoch worked the light booth during the play.

“[I’m] not an on-stage kind of person,” Hoch said. “Here, I get to control different colors, settings and different scenes that you can make.”

Along with the willingness to work hard, a positive, collaborative attitude from auditions to the final performance was consistent among the cast and crew.

The next production for the LHS theater department is the winter play, “The Rose Tattoo,” which will be performed on Feb. 10-11 at 7:30 p.m. in the LHS auditorium.

The Puffs hug it out in the last chapter as death eaters run the school. It’s up to them to muster the courage to fight for what they believe is right in the battle against Voldemort. Freshman Olivia Vinas (second from right) played the timid Hannah Baker, who, alongside her fellow Puffs, finds she has a lot more courage than she thought. “I found my inner awkwardness [playing Hannah] and let it show out of everything,” Vinas said. (Zahraa Patel)