BWW Interview: Meet Matt Cox, the Writer Behind the Magical PUFFS
Matt cox is a playwright, actor, improviser, who's behind the popular shows KAPOW-I GOGO and PUFFS OR: SEVEN INCREASINGLY EVENTFUL YEARS AT A CERTAIN SCHOOL OF MAGIC & MAGIC. With PUFFS recently making it's debut at the Elektra Theatre after a lager than life run at the People's Improv Theatre, this Harry Potter parody puts audiences in the perspective of the most ragged on house: the Hufflepuffs.
We sat down with Matt Cox, the man behind the show's script and sound design, as he gave BroadwayWorld an exclusive look into the magic that brought this show to life.
Check out the interview, below!
So, how long have you been a fan of the Harry Potter series?
I grew up with it, definitely, in the way I was just the right age, as I was Harry's age when the book developed. I think I started reading them around the time of the second or third book. I started picking them up and then I went to all the midnight releases of all the books following and laid on my bed and read them straight through, as many people did. Then, all the movies came out and I didn't think about it for a little while, because there wasn't any new stuff. Once the play happened, I reread them and re-immersed myself into that world.
When and how did you come up with the idea for the show?
We did this show at the People's Improv Theatre called KAPOW-I GOGO. It was this big, four and a half hour long, Saturday morning cartoon video game anime type thing. And, towards the end of it, people were asking "What are you going to do next?" And I was just on a train, I think I was going to a friend's party, and I was trying to think of like silly little ideas. Then, my brain just went down a path of, "Oh it would be fun to get the story of that perspective of the other kids at that magical school," just because those seven years would have been absolutely horrifying to all the other kids, because they didn't have the knowledge or the know, so all they knew about were monsters killing everybody and murderers coming that nobody was giving them information about. And then, with the idea of the Puffs, pop culture, though not as much anymore, for a time deemed them not the coolest kids at magic school, which I think a lot of people can relate to, particularly people who really loved the book series.
So, why not Slytherin or Ravenclaw?
The biggest reason is, well I grew up as the one of the really not cool kids, just in terms of the fact that I loved sci-fi and fantasy books and movies like that. And, so, I think there's was something about the Puffs that relates to someone. It's not autobiographical in any way, but I think they have the most connection with people. And, it was just the thing of whose perspective to tell it from, since we got it from the heroes side, and we got to spend a lot of time with the brave, courageous people, but what is like from the people who everyone else thinks less of. Plus, there the people we know the least amount of information about in the books, so it was fun to use them. Other than Cedric, there hasn't really been much of a standout character from there.
What has been the biggest change, so far, since you've moved from the PIT to the Elektra Theatre?
The staging of the show is almost completely different, which is great. One of our biggest focuses was of that, because it was a very silly show at the PIT, the element of "heart" was pretty much at it's core with everyone. It's still a very big part, but we've really tried to hone in on the a lot of the more play-like storytelling that takes place throughout. I really tried to make sure each of the PUFF's characters had a variable of a through line throughout the show, just some way that they change, even if it's just like the little quirks and what happens with them over seven years.
I read that at the PIT after the last performance you did a cold reading of something called "Nineteen Years Later, or: There and Back Again, A Puffs Tale" Can you tell us more about that?
What that was, was when script came out for CURSED CHILD, it was the weekend before our last two shows at the PIT. So, I asked the artistic director at the PIT that I was looking at the eleven o' clock slot after our show and if it was open, so why don't we do a fun thing? I wrote the thing from midnight to four in the morning for three days, it was all in fun, then we did the reading after the show as as a kind of celebration of our run at the PIT. So, it was our characters from PUFFS and now they once again get caught up in Harry's shenanigans, essentially. It's a lot of fun.
Do you think you're going to put that on again at some point?
If the run here is successful, which I'm hoping it's going to be, we want to do at least a reading of it again. The part of the fun of it is having some fun with the stage directions and how they are written and stuff like that. I definitely want to do a reading of it again, and once FANTASTIC BEASTS comes out, there's a desire to have some fun with that, as well.
Do you have a favorite moment from the show?
I really love the moments where the Puffs, as a group, are reacting to the scary things happening at the school. Like the snake moment that happens in Year Two with Harry, how that would be terrifying, so getting to see those moments, I love those a lot. Just a scene where they're reacting, whether incredibly happy because they've finally won or being terrified because they're all going to die.
What do you think separates PUFFS from other Harry Potter parodies out there?
I haven't really seen that much, but we wanted to make sure we had a more original take on the universe. We make a few little jokes at the series, like poke fun at it, but there's also a very core story with a lot of heart to ours. So it's not about just want happens in the books, but it's about how the events in the books are seen from another perspective, and I don't think that's something that we see in a lot of other shows like that. That's what makes it fun, for me and the whole team, just telling a Rosencrantz and Guildenstern adventure through the book stories. We try to make you laugh and have some sad feelings. I don't think a lot of parody plays try and make you really sad.
What do you think the future is for PUFFs right now? Do you think you'll change to another theatre? Maybe a tour?
The sky is the limit, ultimately. Hopefully there's some sort of tour, but first we just have to make this one a super success that hopefully a lot of people come out and have fun with us. I'm just really happy that our silly little wizard play is still going. It was only supposed to run for about five shows and now we're at an Off-Broadway theatre, so that's really cool.
Some people are born to do great things. Some people change the world. Some people rise from humble beginnings to beat back the forces of darkness in the face of insurmountable odds. This is the story of the people who sit next to those people in class.
Puffs, or: Seven Increasingly Eventful Years at a Certain School of Magic & Magic gives you a front row seat to the sidelines of the world's most famous magical journey. Named one of Hypable's top five plays of 2015, Puffs "exudes a jovial, winking fondness for all things Harry" (The New York Times) as it follows the story of a young wizard named Wayne Hopkins and the Puffs-a group of well-meaning, loyal rejects with a thing for badgers. Together, they do their best to learn spells, try not to get hurt, and discover what they're really made of...but, seriously, try not to get hurt...in this "laugh-out-loud production perfect for any fan of this magical world" (Pop City Life).
For tickets to see PUFFS, click here!