Friday, July 10, 2009

Potter party was HUGE fun! Part 2

This is the second report of the goings on at the July 9th Potter party at the Pima County Public Library's Mission Branch in Tucson, Arizona. [Part one of the report is here]

There will be a second party on Saturday, July 11th at 2pm in the Joel D. Valdez Main Library's Lower Level Meeting Room. Free; no registration required. See you there!

After the Potions class came Care of Magical Creatures, beginning with Rhonda as Professor Grubbly-Plank. She corrected Hagrid's earlier confusion of Gryphons with Hippogriffs and proceeds to teach the different types.

As a special treat, she tells the class that she has a sedated -- but real -- baby Gryphon named Katerina. Hagrid ghoulishly goes into a little too much detail about the damage even a baby could do to fingers and toes while Grubbly-Plank removes Katerina from her cage. And she's a darling. Eventually, however, she begins to get agitated and has to be put back in her crate. "Oh!" says Hagrid, "But not without her bunny!" and adds a stuffed bunny rabbit to the crate. Not a good idea. The crate jumps and bucks violently. Hagrid valiantly tries to rescue the bunny but alas, only pulls out stuffing. Ah well.

For Hagrid's segment of the class he has a special guest, a former Hogwarts professor-turned-werewolf. Ben as Remus Lupin is brought in and the students are told that while he is generally safe due to the Wolfsbane potion, they shouldn't get too close. Hagrid starts the lesson about how well the potion works when Lockhart ambles over to harangue the class about his book Wanderings with Werewolves. Over Hagrid's objections he demonstrates how werewolves like to be tickled on their tummy and behind the ears when he is attacked by Lupin. Hagrid petrifies Lupin long enough to allow Madam Pomfrey to drag Lockhart away. Once Lockhart is safe, Hagrid distracts Lupin by yelling "Squirrel!" and Lupin bounds out the door. My goodness, another close call. You never know what will happen in Care of Magical Creatures class!

We had to be careful with this segment because we knew there would be some very young kids in the audience. We had a full Werewolf costume, but ended up going for comic effect instead of a fearsome one. Curt made a Ben a tale and doggy nose and found some ears, and Ben wore the claws from the costume. It worked perfectly.

Our Hagrid is played by Curt who is, um, a little typecast. Curt, easily 6'6", brings to us a strong theater background and the ability to adjust track lighting without a ladder.

Ben, a Library Assistant from the Himmel Branch Library, was a great sport about the tame werewolf costume and told us at least it was better than when he had to play a puppy for one of the library storytimes.

Rhonda, like Curt and Chris, are active in the Society for Creative Anachronism. Their life-long appreciation for the archaic and arcane adds authenticity and and depth to their performances.

My role as Madam Pomfrey was dead simple: bandage Lockhart up after all his injuries. I had a large bar of chocolate, vet wrap, and goofy band-aids (Barbie, Sponge Bob, Scooby Doo) on hand. He looked pretty funny by the end of the evening!

The last segment was a visit from Simon Wanderman, Ministry of Magic official from the Wizarding Examinations Authority. Mr. Wanderman is visiting to test the students for their magical abilities. Wanderman is played by Chris who is a magician with over 20 years experience.

However, he has a little trouble getting to Hogwarts because he attempts to use a rickety vanishing cabinet. Hagrid puts the 4 broken pieces together and we held our breath while Wanderman emerged unscathed. Whew.

Wanderman has a great time, beginning with some basic wizard hygiene -- cleaning between the ears. My favorite part of the testing is for skill with the Expelliarmus! charm. I won't spoil it, but I can tell you that the child who got the blasted card yelled "Score!" to his friends. Wanderman ends his segment with an appeal to the students to be diligent in their studies because the Wizarding world needs smart, skilled wizards.

Then we snacked on pretzel wands, jelly beans and butterbeer (cream soda). The cast was available for photo ops and other kinds of mayhem afterwards.

I have a gallery of Potter party photos on my flickr account.

Potter party was HUGE fun! Part 1

Tomorrow I will look at today's great-sounding HBP movie premiere footage, but for now I am still basking in the afterglow of a very fun Potter party. I thought this time I would write a little about the logistics of pulling a party off in case it is helpful (and not boring).

Room set up: There are 5 classes at our parties: Divination, Herbology, Potions, Care of Magical Creatures, and testing from the Ministry of Magic, so we set it up so that the classes alternated sides of the room so the next class could get everything ready while the audience was focused in the other direction.

Ideally you'll be in a room that has dimmer lights. If not, bring some floor lamps so the kids can see what's happening even when the lights are out.

We had a full house at Mission Library. Our hosting librarians Lupita and Leila did a wonderful job planning the sorting, door prizes, and food. I thought the sorting technique was especially well thought out. Library staff made Hogwarts house ties out of cardstock and string. It was really easy to see the child's house when awarding and taking points. What I really liked about it was that even the kids who came in t-shirts had a proper school tie.

The decorations
  • Iridescent streamers at entry door so that entry looks like a magical veil [source]
  • A machine that projected the night sky onto the ceiling [source]
  • Fog machine
  • Magic dust (cosmetic-grade iridescent glitter) sprinkled on arms at entry [source]
  • Faux stone on walls [source]
  • Handmade banners of the Hogwarts houses
  • Candelabras and spell books galore [one source]
  • Hedwig in her cage [photo]
  • Several flickering faux flame lamps [source] [source]
  • Purple twinkle lights [usually only sold at Halloween]
  • A large mercury glass gazing ball is a cheap substitute for a crystal ball
  • Tables covered with black plastic, but also with real fabric and shaggy black fur (4'x6') for accents
  • Huge canvas with tropical flowers for the Herbology greenhouse
  • Shawls draped all over Trelawney's corner
  • A vanishing box, also homemade
  • Potions bottles and cauldrons in the Potions classroom
  • Bookcarts decorated to look like the teacart on the Hogwarts Express
As they entered through the "veil," kids were given a wand (a clear straw with a fat glittery pipecleaner inside wrapped with ribbon) and asked to select a school house tie.

Hagrid welcomed everyone, introduced the professors and school staff, and directed everyone's attention to Professor Trelawney who informed us that she was a true seer who knows EVERYTHING. Laurie plays her with a querulous voice and dry sarcasm, and has concocted around 80 of the most doleful fortunes you have ever heard. She has the kids pick them from a basket and then reads a few of them aloud to the dismay and guffaws of the audience. The rest are handed out and read later when the food is served.

Next is Professor Sprout in her greenhouse with a special guest: Gilderoy Lockhart, on leave from St. Mungo's and still extremely forgetful. Lockhart immediately interrupts to show off his new book, Magical Me, and hands out autographed photos of himself. Once the class starts, he loses interest in helping. Thankfully "Fernie," a remote-controlled potted fern is on hand to bring her things.

Sprout demonstrates the characteristics of the Deadly daisy, Mandragora ("Silencio!"), and Mimbulus mimbletonia. The notoriously grumpy cactus is unfortunate enough to attract Lockhart's wandering attention. Lockhart ignores Sprout's explicit advice and pokes it repeatedly with his wand while her back is turned. Yeah, you guessed it (and so does the audience), prettyboy Lockhart gets stinksapped. With a twinkle in her eye, Sprout turns the plant on the audience and squirts the crowd too.

Her final plant is her deadliest, in fact a young girl in the audience correctly identifies it as Devil's Snare. While Sprout is focused on impressing the crowd with the plant's ferocity, Lockhart seems drawn to it and in a flash he is thrashing on the ground with the vine around his neck. Once Sprout notices she leads the class in a loud "Lumos!" and Lockhart is freed.

Sprout is played by Thania and her husband Steve. Together they are a joy to watch because of their attention to detail and because their gags are so perfectly calibrated to the audience. Both of them have great comic timing too.

Potions is next! The dark professor, Draco at his side, begins by explaining the power and importance of potions and then proceeds to mix a transformative potion. Right in the middle of this, Sprout enters with Lockhart and asks Snape if he could step away to see her snargaluff pods. Snape asks Lockhart to "babysit" the students (BIG mistake), tells Draco not to let Lockhart touch anything, and leaves with Sprout.

Can you guess? Lockhart proclaims himself a skilled potions master and finishes Snape's potion, which starts bubbling. When Snape returns, he sees the bubbling glass, proclaims it ready to drink and quaffs it in one gulp. "I feel funny" he proclaims and in a flash he is whipping around. Once he steadies, he asks the audience -- in a Borscht Belt voice -- why 6 is afraid of 7 (because 7-8-9). One more corny joke, and he whips around and is Snape again. Snape is suspicious of the laughter, but before he can figure things out he is whipping around for more vaudevillian jokes. You get the idea. I really loved this part. The physical comedy reminded me of the Boggart lesson in the third movie when Snape turns into Neville's grandmother.

Mike plays Snape, cast against type, because he is one of the funniest people I know. He's been doing stand-up for years and writes filks satirical of libraryland that help make our library's holiday parties the stuff of legend. Draco is his lovely daughter Wren.

I will write more later about the Care of Magical Creatures class and the visit from the Ministry of Magic. The adrenaline has finally worn off and I'm off to sleep.

UPDATE: Part 2 is now posted.


Sunday, July 05, 2009

Our Potter parties are this week!

Pima County Public Library's Potter parties are this week! We're doing two parties; one requires registration, the other one doesn't. [Calendar information]

Here's the cast:
Rubeus Hagrid: Curt Booth
Sibyll Trelawney: Laurie Fleetham
Pomona Sprout: Thania Mayorga-Shull
Gilderoy Lockhart: Stephen Shull
Severus Snape: Mike Sterner
Prof. Grubbly-Plank: Rhonda Staggs
Simon Wanderman, Ministry of Magic: Chris Lyon
Poppy Pomfrey: Lisa Bunker
Draco Malfoy: Wren Sterner
Remus Lupin: Ben Matiella
Molly Weasley: Leila Duncan

The role of Madam Pomfrey was a bit of a surprise, but I found a nurse-like apron on the internet and a dear friend is making me a cap and shipping it express from Canada. My role will be to rush over whenever a cast member gets hurt (I expect Lockhart will have a genius for this) and bandage them up. I will be using some rather unorthodox materials such as fluorescent vet wrap and Dora the Explorer, Scooby Doo and Sponge Bob band-aids. Hee. We have SUCH fun!