Potter changed the World of Wizards forever. The Puffs were also there.
We've teamed up with the cast of Puffs to celebrate the launch of our new mismatched library card socks (inspired by your favorite house elf!)
Andy Miller as Helga (left), Jessie Cannizzaro as Bippy the House Elf (center), Stephen Stout as the Headmaster (right)
For those of you not familiar with the show, Puffs, or: Seven Increasingly Eventful Years at a Certain School of Magic and Magic has moved to its new home off-Broadway at the Elektra Theatre in New York City. The Potter-inspired comedy follows a young wizard named Wayne and the Puffs – a group of well-meaning, loyal rejects with a thing for badgers. It offers us a glimpse into the lives of ordinary wizards - the students who sit next to our golden trio in class. Hyable declares, "Any Potter fans visiting New York City absolutely must take in this play!"
We sat down with Jessie Cannizzaro (Sally/others), Stephen Stout (Ernie Mac/others) and Andy Miller (Leanne/others) to learn more about the show.
We've had the pleasure of seeing you perform at the PIT over a year ago and now at the Elektra Theatre. What was the transition like?
Jessie Cannizzaro: Oh, as magically smooth as could be (which is pretty darn magical, when doing a play about wizards). We had so much fun creating the wonderful world of Puffs at the fantastic Peoples Improv Theater, and it was an absolute treat to be able to move that world a little further uptown with an even fancier, shinier, off-Broadway-ier aesthetic! Our super awesome producers and entire amazing off-Broadway creative team have 110% embraced the scrappy, loving, do-it-yourself signature style that is the embodiment of Puffs, while giving us an incredible amount of support and resources needed to expand that world to properly fit our new midtown home. Candles hang from the ceiling! Fog machines flow and starry backdrops sparkle! It has all been marvelously exciting, and I can’t wait for the opportunity to grow the world a little bit further throughout every day of this journey.
Andy Miller: We went from an empty stage at the PIT to a full set at the Elektra, so we changed some of the blocking, and obviously the layout of the stage was completely different. It's weird taking something you know so well and changing just enough of it that you have to stop and think, but it's sort of exciting! It helped me take another look at moments that I thought were set and add more layers to the character.
Stephen Stout: It's been overwhelming and really cool! To have gone from this show that was supposed to only run 5 performances, to now being Off-Broadway and having people from around the country and the world arranging travel plans to come check us out...it's been a really fun year. The show itself has gotten bigger, sharper, hopefully deeper while keeping a healthy baseline of very, very silly.
How does it feel getting to stay with one character for such a long period of time?
Jessie Cannizzaro: I have grown to know and dearly love each of the characters I get to play in a way that is not unlike growing up knowing and loving the characters in a favorite book (or in this case, a favorite book series). Assumptions I made about my characters on day one at the PIT have completely evolved and changed with time and performance. The nuance in Matt Cox’s brilliant script have given way to endless discovery. Every line he writes contains a world of possibility, and the brilliant team of artists and collaborators around us have helped to unlock new and untapped magic inside of every moment. I am still discovering new facets of these characters every single performance, because Matt and co have created such a vast, infinite, boundless world that fits so perfectly into a universe that we already know and love. In the same way that you can re-read your favorite book again and again and again even though you can recite it, I never tire of letting these characters open my eyes to the universe of Puffs in new and unexpected ways (even after a collective year of performances).
Andy Miller: This show moves so quickly, and there are quite a few moments where I jump on stage, say a line then run off. It's nice knowing a character so well that your brain can flip into it almost like muscle memory. Every night there is an element of the show I try to improve on (sometimes it's a piece of stage combat or how a punch line is delivered) so the characters still get to grow as the show goes on.
Stephen Stout: I inhabit a number of well-ish known impressions - mostly I've just learned to live with unintentionally mumbling to myself in the voices of acclaimed British character actors.
Were you Potter fans before you were cast in Puffs?
Jessie Cannizzaro: I fell into the world of Potter right around when I was eleven years old, the same age that a certain wizard was when he started at a certain school of magic and magic. And though I’m still waiting for my letter to arrive (darn owl must keep showing up when I’m not home, a la UPS), I still absolutely fell in love with the stories. I grew up with Harry and his friends, and they taught me incredibly important lessons of courage, friendship, tolerance, and the many forms and faces of bravery at perhaps the most pivotal moments of my formative years.
Stephen Stout: I'm a newly baptized fan. I was familiar when I was younger but since we began working on the show last summer, I've started to be able to quote chapter and verse and spout random esoteric facts about Wizard Sports in America.
How did the books impact you growing up?
Jessie Cannizzaro: I went to every single book release party and movie screening, from middle school straight through to my early college years, cosplaying my favorite characters and collecting book editions from around the world along the way. I went to Swarthmore College, which is famously nerdy - we didn’t have a football team, but we did play a certain sport on broomsticks, and had a huge annual Potter-themed-ball (in which wizard rock bands played as we danced beneath candles strung from the ceiling). My first day job out of college was working as a wizard (that’s right, a wizard) at a certain exhibition about a certain boy wizard right here in Times Square. I wore robes, carried a lantern, and helped to sort museum guests into their houses. As far as day jobs go, it was an absolute dream come true! I grew up with Harry, and his incredible adventures made me feel capable of my own. He taught me to fear less, mistake more, and in the end, gaze directly into the terror that surrounds the unknown with the help of true friends by my side. He has always felt like the oldest and dearest of friends, one who can be reliably called upon in times of trouble to remind you about the value of facing what scares you, and the importance of always choosing to stand up for what you know to be right (even and especially when it is the harder choice to make). For that, and for every single lesson he taught us all along the way, I am eternally grateful. Always.
Andy Miller: I dressed up to wait in line at the bookstore for the midnight releases for the last few books, and movies! They were probably the first books that completely transported me to a new world and started my love of reading.
Do you have a favorite joke, line or moment in the show?
Jessie Cannizzaro: The moment in which the Puffs gather together to decide whether or not they should make the difficult and daunting choice to stay and fight during the school battle near the end of the play gives me chills every single performance.
Andy Miller: My favorite part of the show is probably the top of the 2nd task. Without giving anything away, it's fun to see how long the audience laughs while we stand on stage in silence.
Stephen Stout: Oh so many! It shifts over a long run. Currently it's an improvised "yoink" sound courtesy of Puffs actor Nick Carrillo.
What house would you be sorted into?
Jessie Cannizzaro: I will insist always and forever that I am a Smart. Every single internet test will insist always and forever that I am a Snake. However, I stopped fully listening to Internet quizzes when I took one called, “Are you a baked potato?” and was told, “Yes, you are a baked potato.” So. Who knows (Although, over the course of the last year and some change, I have embraced the fact that perhaps I truly am a Puff more than anything else. Perhaps we all are, at least in some small ways, and perhaps that is a truly beautiful thing) (...Am I baked potato though??? Asking for a friend. Me. Asking for me...)
Andy Miller: This question is tricky. When I was younger I thought of myself as a Smart, but eventually decided I was more of a Brave. When I got into this show everyone thought of me as a Puff, but then internet quizzes told me I was a Snake!?! I guess I'm just a very multidimensional person.
Stephen Stout: According to a prominent website, I'm Brave. So if you don't mind me, I'll be over here being both rebellious AND charming.
What is your characters' patronus and why?
Jessie Cannizzaro: Bippy the House Elf's patronus is a perpetually joyful, slobbering, unquestioningly loyal golden retriever who lives to make her friends happy through little songs and big hugs.
Andy Miller: Some sort of highly excitable big dog, like a Labradoodle! Because they are tough but lovable.
Stephen Stout: In this picture? My pet bird who tragically died. Nevermind. He's alive again!
Puffs was written by Matt Cox
Directed by Kristin McCarthy Parker
The Elektra Theatre - 300 West 43rd St, 2nd Floor (Between 8th and 9th Aves)
For tickets and more information on Puffs, visit puffstheplay.com
Follow Puffs on Instagram - @puffsplay