Arts & Entertainment Community
‘Puffs,’ underdog story set in wizarding world, coming to Peninsula High stage
When audiences gather in the Milton S. Boyd auditorium for the first play of the 2023 season, the story may seem a bit familiar. However, it will become evident that this one stars an unlikely hero and takes place in a world of its own.
Opening night for “Puffs, Or Seven Increasingly Eventful Years At A Certain School of Magic and Magic” written by Matt Cox, will be at 7 p.m. Jan. 13. It will run Jan. 14, Jan. 19, and will have a final curtain on at 1 p.m. Jan. 21. A performance for 8th graders will take place on Jan. 17 during the school day.
“Puffs” was chosen based on a variety of factors, said Bryan Bullock, theater teacher and artistic director at the school. In fact, he said that each play that is performed at Peninsula High School goes through a long selection process.
“We chose “Puffs” back in May while we were doing ‘Cinderella,’ ” he said. “It’s a fun retelling of a very well-known wizarding story, but told by the underdogs, which are the Puffs.”
“We thought it was a musical at one point,” said Alex Stahl, the choir teacher, “and then he looked and found out it was a play. And he was like, ‘I don’t want to do this as a play.’”
That’s when Stahl was pulled in to help with the music aspect of the production.
“We didn’t know what we wanted to do just because it’s gotta be the right scoring for the vocals, the right scoring for the pit, right technical aspects. Can we actually pull this off at a high-school level?” Stahl said.
Ultimately, the pair decided that it would make a great musical, and that it also had a great message.
“In ‘Puffs’ you have a group of kids that isn’t noticed in the school, their chant is ‘third or nothing’ because they’ve always gotten fourth place,” Bullock said. “This story is told by the underdogs, which are Puffs. The main character makes a difference in one person’s life, and that is the touching moment in this story. That internal message is what we locked onto. Our kids need to know that they can be a hero, even if they aren’t the big hero.”
Gabe Radke-Reeves is a senior who plays the lead character, Wayne Hopikins. He has enjoyed being a part of the theater program so much that he has decided to major in theater in college.
“During auditions I auditioned for Cedric, he’s the role model,” he said “Mr. Bullock holds different auditions for the play, and I performed a monologue, and he gathered ideas for where to put certain people, and did call backs, and honed in on certain roles for certain days. He wanted me to do the Wayne Hopikins monologue, and he sorted everyone into their roles.”
“Puffs” is filled with humor, action, lots of movement, and props, and Bullock said students are playing multiple roles.
“It’s cracking jokes about it, playing multiple roles, and the whole cast is going to switch roles for the matinee and they get to battle with spells and wands,” Bullock said. “It’s fully set in the ’90s, so when Mr. Voldy comes back to life he decides to put on a ’90s mix show, and they get to dance to those songs.”
These students have experience pivoting, and playing multiple roles, Stahl said. The disruptions caused by COVID-19 during the production of “Anne of Green Gables” last year provided them with a crash course in it.
“Anne of Green Gables was actually during the Omicron surge of last year, and one of the interesting things we did with that show is every day at 4:30 p.m. I told the cast who was playing who,” Bullock said. “Because of COVID we had to switch around so much. We never had the same cast two shows in a row. It was amazing the growth they had. This year we get to enjoy the growth from last year.”
One of the understudy cast members of “Puffs,” Alex Sprague, is a sophomore who has been in two previous productions at the school. Last year she was an actor and artistic designer for the “Anne of Green Gables” and “Cinderella” productions.
Her role this year is to understudy for the “Puffs” character Megan Jones, played by Brooklyn McAnally. The character of Megan Jones is a misunderstood teen who is not happy about being put in the “Puffs” house at the school for magic.
McAnally is a junior and has been in productions for the three years of her high school career. “My sister did all four years, so I thought it would be fun,” McAnally said.
Being an understudy is challenging work, Sprague said.
“The most challenging part about being an understudy is having to play a role in which you have almost no experience, since you never really get the opportunity to run the entire show as that character,” Sprague said. “I really enjoy doing the accent for the character, since it is unique and unlike anything I’ve played before.”
56 technicians involved, so far
“Puffs,” has a cast of 30, with 56 technicians. As opening night looms closer, Bullock said more crew will likely be added as they look for people who can run projections, and help with other duties that pop up at the last minute.
“For ‘Cinderella,’ we had 185 involved in it,” Bullock said. “If you’re in the class you get to perform, so that adds to our inclusivity. We’ve had athletes come from a state competition, change clothes and come into the performance. We have special needs kids get involved. When you have an audition-only program those kids get sifted out, so we have them come into the class and then sort them out into the roles.”
While “Puffs” is a comedy, Sprague said there are some deep messages expressed in the play. “Who remembers you when you’re gone, and how will you be remembered?” she said. “Does anything you do actually matter? I hope audiences see the deeper meaning behind Puffs.”
What: “Puffs, Or: Seven Increasingly Eventful Years At A Certain School of Magic & Magic”
Where: Milton S. Boyd Auditorium at Peninsula High School, 14105 Purdy Drive, Gig Harbor
When: 7 p.m. Jan. 13, 14, 19 and 20; 1 p.m. Jan. 21
Tickets: at the door and online
Tickets: $5 for elementary student, $10 for students, $20 for adults and $5 for discounted adult tickets. Those who wish to support the program further may choose to become a package holder for between $25-$500.