How do you turn seven very long books turn into one short play? There’s no magic spell or potion: Just two devoted Harry Potter fans playing 360 characters.
“We’ve worked out that we’ve done this show 2,000 times now,” says “Potted Potter” star and co-creator Dan Clarkson. “It’s a very organic show and it’s always changing.”
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Ten years ago, Clarkson and Jefferson Turner, both British, performed a five-minute comedic street show for a line of diehard Potter fans waiting to purchase the sixth book in the series. From there, they got the idea to condense J.K. Rowling’s seven novels about the boy wizard into a parody. It’s been running in theaters around the world, sometimes with the original duo and sometimes other actors, since 2009.
The two actors play all of the parts, from Harry — “the first real British hero that we’ve had,” says Clarkson — to the villainous Lord Voldemort.
“When you’re [playing] a bad guy, you can say lots of nasty things to an audience and they cheer you,” says Clarkson. “I feel that Voldemort is very misunderstood and everything could have been avoided if someone had just given him a hug and a kitten.”
They’re bringing the show to Philly next month, at the Kimmel’s Perelman Theater. One group you’ll likely spot at the performances is members of the Society of Philadelphians Encouraging Wizardry, a chapter of the Harry Potter Alliance.
“The book series started a new generation of readers,” says Grace Gordon, events coordinator for the Society. “We are united with a common purpose. Shows like “Potted Potter” — it’s amazing what fans have done and the projects they’ve put together just because they love this story.”
Dressing up as Harry, Hermione, Hagrid or another character is encouraged, whether or not you’re an aspiring wizard.
“We have the people turning up who actually believe that they’re wizards — and far be it for me to say whether they are or not,” says Clarkson. “We always encourage people to put their robes on and dress as their favorite characters. If there is someone in a good costume, that gives me good material. And if they’re wearing our merchandise, that means Jeff and I can eat that night.”
A taste of liberty
Philadelphia is the first stop on this round of the “Potted Potter” North American tour featuring Clarkson and Turner.
“Philadelphia is the one I’m looking forward to the most,” Clarkson says. “I’ve never seen the Liberty Bell, and it’s on the to-do list before I die. And someone said that if no one else is looking, you can taste it. I want to taste liberty.”
We hope they realize security might not like that — but we’re pretty sure it won’t be an issue. “We’re waiting for people to realize that it’s just two friends messing around,” says Clarkson.
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