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Community Players celebrates the underdog in Potter-inspired 'Puffs'

10 people stand in a semi-circle with their right hands extended in the center--as if about to cheer, "Go team!"
courtesy of
Community Players
The cast of "Puffs," Community Players' latest production.

Community Players’ latest production has boy wizards, dark lords and sorting hats—but it’s not exactly Harry Potter. The play “Puffs” is a satirical fanfiction of Potter world that focuses on J.K. Rowling’s least-explained Hogwarts house, the Hufflepuffs (sort of).

Playwright Matt Cox pushed the limits of fair use in creating his Off-Off-Broadway play. Thus, the Community Players have a lot of rules related to how they talk about a certain boy wizard who attends a certain wizarding school—and the Puffs who are by Potter’s side during seven very eventful years.

Puffs runs through May 21 at Community Players Theatre in Bloomington.

Making her Community Players debut, Eve Warner said auditioning for “Puffs” was a last-minute decision.

“It’s been a blast; it’s been so lovely,” she said. Warner attended Indiana University, studying human resources and theatre. She graduated in 2020 and “Puffs” is her first theatrical experience outside of college. Warner plays several characters, including a Puff named Sally Perks.

“She is loving and a little bit ditsy, but super friendly,” she said. “She cares a lot about her Puff friends.”

“Puffs” is Mario Silva’s 10th show with Community Players. His main role is J. Finch Fletchley, a character who describes himself as “boyish and fun” in the play’s opening scenes.

“He’s just really enthusiastic, really upbeat, but he has a certain experience that lets him see the dark side of things involving a certain snake.”

Silva also plays Zach Smith, a jock who leads the Puffs in a sports tryout. The role was an appealing challenge to Silva for its improvised monologue in lieu of scripted lines.

Harry Potter fans and foes are likely to love “Puffs,” which simultaneously reveres and pokes fun at the franchise. But Silva and Warner said the play will still resonate with folks who know little of Rowling’s wizard world.

“I am one of those people, in fact,” Silva said. “I was coming into this as more of a fresh slate and I’d say that the jokes play.”

“At its core, this story is about what it means when you are not the hero,” said Warner. “We’ve all been a background character in someone else’s story. That can be difficult at times, and also beautiful.”

“It’s really a story about the meaning of life, in a way,” Silva added. “It’s extremely profound for being so silly.”

J.K. Rowling has been harshly criticized for comments she made on Twitter regarding the transgender community, leading some Potter fans to question their allegiance and adoration of Harry Potter. While “Puffs” is not authorized or acknowledged by the franchise—Rowling receives no profit or credit for the play—some may still feel hesitation with a Potter-adjacent story.

“For me, the memories are more about the community I made and the people I connected with,” Warner said, “and less about the artist itself—although you can never separate the art from the artist.”

“How ever one feels about it is appropriate,” said Silva. “This show stands on its own and I think that’s a really good point that the author, Matt Cox, makes. This is a world; this is a universe in which those extrinsic factors tied to other wizarding IPs (intellectual properties) are not necessarily an albatross around our necks.”

A statement by Puffs director Brett Cottone says the play “captures everything about this franchise that I love: a sense of adventure, a heroic underdog, a coming-of-age tale and a focus of belonging and finding yourself. This will be the version of the story I want to remember.”

“Puffs” runs through May 21 at Community Players Theatre, 201 Robinhood Lane, Bloomington. Tickets are $9-$17 at 309-663-2121 and communityplayers.org.

Lauren Warnecke is a reporter at WGLT. You can reach Lauren at lewarne@ilstu.edu.