Hogwarts@Hamilton, a time honored campus tradition, is back in full force just in time for Halloween. The annual production involves more than 60 students and Sarah Zeiberg ’18 sat down with two members of the executive board to talk about the process that leads up to the original hour-long comedy show every year.
Preparations begin in early September, with all interested actors meeting one another and playing improv and theatre games together while e-board members take notes and cast everyone who shows up. This is a long running practice with the growing club.
“What’s interesting is that Hogwarts people aren’t really theatre majors. They’re just people who want to try their hand at acting and public speaking,” said Andi Dickmeyer ’19. Andy Letai ’19 adds that “some actors have never read Harry Potter before. They can still have fun without knowing anything about the series.”
Rather than work from a preexisting script, each year’s show is derived from hours of collaboration among cast members. The show itself “is not improv based, it’s what you could call ‘devised.’ We improvise until we find a show we like and start nailing bits down,” said Letai.
This year’s show, taking place in Benedict Hall, includes six skits that take visitors to four Hogwarts-inspired classes and two common rooms that feature all of the major cast members from the book and movie series. A unique addition to the show comes from audience participation. Dickmeyer explained that “we have a rule that, if kids dress up and have a wand and cast a spell on an actor, you have to go with it.” Letai remembers several scenes having to be wholly improvised once a main actor was faux paralyzed by a child visitor.
As the shows approach emotions are high. “It’s always in the week before that we fit things together,” Dickmeyer remarked. “It’s exciting and nerve-wracking, but mostly exciting.” Due to the large cast size and segmented structure of the show, these final rehearsals are also the first time cast members will get to see the full show.
Despite each year’s fluctuating script, certain traditions continue. Some shows are designated as family friendly while others are oriented for an audience of college students and frequently returning alumni. This variety is embraced by all, with many visitors also taking the opportunity to assist the performers in raising money for the Kirkland Town Library.
According to Dickmeyer, “That’s a part of why this all started. We raised $631 last year, and really want to try to beat that this year. There’s never an admission fee, we just love to help out.”
This year Hogwarts will be staged Friday, Oct. 27, with family-friendly shows at 5, 6, and 8 p.m. An adult performance will be take place at 9:30 and 10:30 p.m. On Saturday, Oct. 28, family-friendly shows will run at 4, 5, 6, and 8 p.m., with adult performances at 9:30 and 10:30 p.m. All performances will take place in Benedict Hall.