Ask an expert - HANNAH BROWN, ACTOR

What should we know about 'Puffs'?

Hinsdale Central senior Hannah Brown suggests the power of the Force animated her interest in theater.

"I really liked 'Star Wars' when I was little, and I wanted to be a Jedi," Brown related. "I found out that wasn't realistic, but I thought if I was an actor then I could play a Jedi."

Wanting to impact others the way memorable performances had moved her, she joined the Central's drama club freshman year. In the middle of the pandemic, she found herself alone in front of a camera as part of montage of Zoom monologues instead of working alongside castmates on stage.

"My character made a musical spinoff of 'Cats' about being stuck at home. It's literally a video of me with my cat singing 'Memory,' but the lyrics are different," Brown said.

Back on stage now and in her final high school season, she has a starring turn in another spinoff, of sorts, in the production of "Puffs," a parody of J. K. Rowling's "Harry Potter" book series. Showtime is 7 p.m. Thursday to Saturday, Nov. 16-18, in the school's auditorium (see Page 18 for details).

The play tells the Hogwarts saga from the perspective of the oft-overlooked Hufflepuff House. References are altered for copyright reasons, but easy to decipher. Brown plays Megan, the Puffs' Hermione, who befriends Wayne and Oliver as they all experience a series of Potter-like events.

"We interact with Harry, Ron and Hermione, but it's funny because we don't do things the same way that they do. We're kind of in the background and we accidentally happen to come across the Sorcerer's Stone or something," Brown explained. "We're kind of just near the action without being directly in the middle of it."

Well until Year 7, of course. But that should be enough to intrigue any Muggle. And it didn't take long for Brown to lose herself in the world of wizardry after her mom brought home the first "Harry Potter" book.

"Then I think I read the rest of the books in the next two weeks," she said with a smile.

Performing in choir instilled in Brown a comfort level in front of an audience. She relishes the opportunity to lose herself in someone else's reality, if just for a while.

"It's cool because you get to live someone else's life without having to deal with all of things that happen in their life." she said.

Taking on her first lead role, Brown curated a mood board of images and a playlist of songs to inform her depiction.

"The lines and the reactions come more naturally when you're in the character as opposed to thinking only about how to deliver them," she said.

Everyone in the ensemble contributes, Brown noted, predicting that audiences will appreciate the more authentic treatment of teenage behavior than found in the source material. Just beware of some magical mayhem.

"We have a bird spell that we always say, so we have a bunch of bird stuffed animals that we're always throwing at each other," Brown teased.

Author Bio

Ken Knutson is associate editor of The Hinsdalean