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"Puffs, or The 7 Increasingly Eventful Years at a Certain School of Magic..." at Cabrillo Playhouse

Updated: May 31, 2023

From Left: L. Murray, K. Phuong, N. Martinez-Marks, A. Cox, B. Green, K. Gee, T. Ward, J. Cooper, C. Caracoza

Revisit the wizarding world with this charming ‘Potter’ parody

By Libby Nicolay

Most of the world these days only needs to hear the words “wizard” or “muggle”, and a certain fourth-highest-grossing-film-series-ever comes to mind. We know about the famous boy who discovers he’s a wizard and is thus sent off to wizarding school, where he fearlessly leads and conquers evil, seemingly over and over again. We’ve read the books and devoured the movies. But what about all the other students? You know, the ones who didn’t kill the dark lord and save the wizarding world for good? The other ones in the class who were just, average?

This was the driving question for playwright Matt Cox, who in 2015 took to writing Puffs, or The Seven Increasingly Eventful Years at a Certain School of Magic and Magic, a hilarious and heartwarming spoof of the famous wizard franchise. Cox’s play follows all seven years at a certain school of “magic and magic” but from the alternate perspective of the “Puffs”, who, between the school’s four sorting houses, make up the most under appreciated (albeit, the most lovable) students. The Puff house may be known for their kindness, fairness, and inclusivity, but here you certainly won’t find any of the heroic, day-saving types.

From Left: Christopher Hutchinson, Chelsea Caracoza and Jack Cooper

Director Eric Modyman first came to know Puffs as an actor in the play previously with Alchemy Theatre. Being a self-proclaimed “Puff” himself and having played the famous wizard boy before in other written stage spoofs, he fell in love with this play and was determined to direct his own production after seeing the way audiences responded to it, and how much he enjoyed being part of such an ensemble-centered cast.

When Modyman first brought the play to Cabrillo Playhouse’s Artistic Director Michael Lopez, he vouched for its potential to draw a new audience and fit Cabrillo’s intimate 66-seat house. For Lopez, this season - Cabrillo Playhouse’s 70th Anniversary season - has centered around the theme of “big shows on a small stage.” Modyman said, “When Michael said he was looking for a comedy that could work for this location, which is a very small space, I was like ‘I’ve got just the show that’s going to fit there.’” And so, Puffs seemed to be just the right choice.

Puffs is part of an ongoing effort to regrow Cabrillo’s audience-base that was lost in the wake of the pandemic. Many theatres have had to take bigger risks to recoup their seats post-COVID, and for Cabrillo, this means choosing a play that will attract a new crowd of younger theatre-goers - a demographic that has historically made up a small percentage of Cabrillo’s audiences.

“We’ve been pushing [to] get a younger audience,” Lopez said, “so this is going to be one of the shows that may not be for everybody, but I think it’ll be for a lot of people. It’ll draw a different audience.” Given the sheer global popularity of the famed franchise, Puffs is sure to resonate with audiences of all ages.

From Left: Jack Cooper and Ben Green

Modyman and Lopez both noted that if you are already a fan of the franchise, then you’ll “catch all the references and little winks and nods to the fans” in the script, but even if you’ve never seen the movies or read the books, the comedy of this show holds its own weight and will be sure to appeal to the masses.

Despite being a comedy, the play also manages to touch on heavy topics like grief and loss, told from the perspective of the schoolchildren. Balancing this heavines in the midst of all the jokes requires a steady amount of nuance and care from the actors. According to Modyman, the key to taking the audience on a journey through these highs and lows is finding each character’s humanity and relatability, in spite of all the goofiness.

Ultimately, the story of the Puffs is one that all can be inspired by. Modyman describes it as “a play that’s for the people who play fair and try their hardest no matter what, in the face of any adversity.” Despite coming in last place or not going down in the school’s history books, the Puffs continue to persevere and celebrate their own achievements in their own way.

Through following the Puffs as they grow up on the sidelines of someone else’s story, this cast of misfits show us that everyone can be the hero of their own story, even if they aren’t necessarily the one destined to save the entire world. Modyman said it best. “We all matter to someone, even if we don’t feel that we do,” he said. “At the end of the day, even if we aren’t the big person that changes the world, we still change the world for some people.”

Libby Nicolay is a writer, literary manager, and local theater enthusiast working in the entertainment industry throughout Orange County and beyond.

‘Puffs, or The Seven Increasingly Eventful Years at a Certain School of Magic and Magic’

Cabrillo Playhouse

202 Avenida Cabrillo, San Clemente, CA

June 2 - June 25, 2023

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