BWW Interview: Matt Cox Talks PUFFS and More!
As BroadwayWorld previously reported, PUFFS or: Seven Increasingly Eventful Years at a Certain School of Magic & Magic, New York's long-running hit comedy, will play its final performance at New World Stages (340 West 50th Street) on August 18, 2019.
For seven years a certain boy wizard went to Wizard School. This, however, is not his story. This is the story of The Puffs... who just happened to be there too. This is a play for anyone who has never been destined to save the world. Puffs, or: Seven Increasingly Eventful Years at a Certain School of Magic & Magic is a Potter inspired comedy for anyone who has ever felt like a secondary character in someone else's story. The play gives you a new look at a familiar adventure from the perspective of three new heroes just trying to make it through magic school.
With the news of hysterical Off-Broadway hit Puffs The Play closing, I took the opportunity to its writer, Matt cox, a few questions.
How did Puffs come to be?
It was early-ish 2015. My first full length play, Kapow-I GoGo (a multi-part four and a half hour long epic mashup up of sci-fi/ anime/ Saturday morning cartoons/ Video Game tropes and more!) was finally on it's feet and running and thoughts began to turn to what could be next. I was on a train headed to a friend's party when the initial idea hit- exploring the lives of the other children at a certain famous wizard school while the best and most famous boy wizard attended. It felt like there'd be enough to mine from that- essentially a horror story for a bunch of kids who just want a magic education while every new year somehow tops the previous one in terror, hijinks, and impending DOOM.
From there it was an almost immediate jump to realizing that story could only focus on "the Puffs"- whom pop culture has always deemed the not-so-cool-kids at wizard school. There's a lot to relate to for many folks there, myself included. From there, it all fell into place slowly.
I had a chat with one half of the original producing team, Stephen Stout, after a Kapow-I performance about what could be next- I pitched him Puffs, and soon we began to figure out how to make it happen alongside Colin Waitt (second half of said original producing team). It was very important to us as we developed the show that, while we were making a parody, that it feel different than your average parody. So, yes, there would be many jokes, many of them magic and wizard related, there would also be heart, and care, and sadness, and joy, and all kinds of things. We wanted people to laugh and also be surprised that they were feeling things. Some big goals were set.
In June of that year we did the first reading at the PIT, it was the first half of the play, and quite long. But even then we had some strangers show up which inspired everyone involved to believe we might be on to something. (Also fun fact, the cast of that first reading were everyone who would go onto be in the initial production of Puffs, save Nick Carrillo who would join us at the second reading, and the majority of these people were also the original Off-Broadway cast too.)
After another reading we moved forward with plans of a production- and that Winter Puffs premiered at the PIT for a scheduled five performances. It went on to play several more than that. It would also go on to drastically change from that version over time as it moved Off-Broadway. (Lot's of characters changed, the scenic elements shifted a lot, major plot points were cut and reshaped, and many many bits were added, tweaked, cut, re-added, tweaked more, and cut again. It was an evolving piece for two years really, we just happened to have the luxury of being able to test lots of things in front of audiences.) Puffs initial premiered at the People's Improv Theater, where it ran for 8 months (on various and ever changing nights of the week- sometimes even starting at 11- we called it Puffs Nights.) Early on in that run our eventual Off-Broadway producers, Tilted Windmills, optioned the play and arranged for us to do a workshop production at the University of Florida to begin making some of the Off-Broadway tweaks we had in mind. We opened Off-Broadway at the Elektra Theater in the fall of 2016, and then transferred to New World Stages the following Summer in 2017, where we have lived ever since. It's been quite the journey!
Your show went international recently! It opened at the Entertainment Quarter, Moore Park in Sydney, Australia on May 17, 2019 and and is set to open at the Brisbane Powerhouse in Brisbane Australia on August 29, 2019. How did this come about?
We received a request to bring the show to Melbourne, Australia with the company TEG, in 2018. This was a surprise, but a very welcome one. The director of Puffs, Kristin McCarthy Parker and I flew out there for the month of May last year and had a truly wonderful time putting up an Australian version of the show with a wonderful Australian cast. We made some adjustments to better localize the play, but many of the themes, and the championing of the underdog resonated with Australian sensibilities quite well without the need for too much change. (The design of the costumes, props, and sets for this version are still Madeleine Bundy's who did the design in NYC. So it's the same production with an Aussie twist.)
That same production found it's way to Sydney, with several of the Melbourne cast members returning. It's very exciting, and getting to work on Puffs in Australia will always be one of the best experiences of my life.
Why did you decide to have it filmed and where can people purchase and watch?
From the get go, even in the first week of performances at the PIT, we received a flood of requests from people to film the show and put it up online. There's precedent for such a thing in the world of Wizard comedies, and it was something we were always very interested in as not everyone can make it to NYC, and there's lots of people out there who might fall in love with our Puffs.
So after being Off-Broadway for a year (and more) many things fell into place to finally make it happen. Puffs can be purchased or rented on iTunes and Amazon, and is also on BroadwayHD.
The NYC run is ending August 18, 2019. Would you like to say anything regarding the closing notice of the show?
We were originally supposed to perform the show five times. There was a hope we'd extend that to an extra two weeks worth of shows. That we'll be close to one thousand performances by the end is insane. It's been a longer, more magical ride than we ever could have imagined and I am so grateful to everyone who's ever been a part of it, on or offstage, in offices, and in the audience. Especially to those who championed the show and talked about it far and wide and helped us exist for so long (and saw it dozens of times in some cases!) We literally would not have made it past that hopeful two week extension without those many people.
If you haven't seen it yet, it's a fun time live, so I recommend checking us out! It's just a little celebration for all the people never destined to save the world.
Any upcoming projects that you want to share with our readers?
A new play I wrote, Witches!? In Salem?! is being premiered at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival this Summer by Inspire School of Arts & Sciences in California. It's a long story of how they ended up premiering it, but I'm very excited! Hopefully more on that play soon. Also, another project of mine is possibly returning early next year, so stay tuned! (Tuned to @MatthewTheCox on Twitter or MattCoxLand.com)