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Mason High School's PUFFS

The Puffs pose in William Mason High School's production of PUFFS.

Review by Tierney Rasmussen, Mariemont High School Critic Team

Lumos! As the lights went up on Mason High School's production of Puffs, the audience was magically transported into a world with wizards, dragons, mermaids, and most fantastical of all; a group of perpetually positive students. The cast and crew of Puffs did a phenomenal job of immersing the audience into their play.

Puffs, written by Matt Cox, is a parody play inspired by the well known Harry Potter book series. The play follows an American student, Wayne Hopkins, through his seven years at wizarding school, exploring the classic tale of the boy who lived from a new perspective. Throughout the show the protagonist faces dangerous creatures, and evil wizards, all with his bubbly Puff housemates at his side.

The entire cast and crew of Puffs put on an outstanding, high energy performance. There was never a dull moment in the show, with a constant stream of jokes, well executed scene changes and costume changes, and outstanding performances from all the actors. The show took place in a black box theatre which allowed for audience participation in the show and created a more immersive atmosphere.

The leads- James Hendricks, who portrayed Wayne Hopkins, and Delaney Cowles, who played Megan Jones, did an incredible job throughout the show. Hendricks impressed with his continual high energy and volume. Cowles' performance was moving, especially her scenes with her mother, Xavia Jones, played by Ceileigh Rodway. Cowles did a wonderful job showcasing Megan's character development throughout the show.

The supporting cast performed spectacularly. The Puffs functioned well as an ensemble and had palpable chemistry. Amara Hedges was effervescent as Leanne and did an exceptional job of bringing energy to all of her scenes. Additionally, one cannot not ignore Ceileigh Rodway's extraordinary performance as both Xavia Jones and Sally Perks. Rodway had a unique approach to both roles, making it almost indiscernible that the two characters were played by the same actress.

The crew of Puffs executed set changes seamlessly and helped with the show's large number of quick changes. The puppets used throughout the production were extremely impressive- hats off to Prop Crew Head Abbie Dreyer. The sound crew's use of music elevated the comedy of the show and every sound cue had impeccable timing. The costumes crew, headed by Kursten Griffith, made very intentional choices with the costumes to help tell the story. Most notably, Megan Jones' costume change in the second act helps visualize her character development.

Overall, the cast and crew of Puffs at Mason High School brought talent, passion, and skill to their production. The show was filled with energy and excitement from light up to lights down.

Ceileigh Rodway as Xavia Jones in William Mason High School’s Production of PUFFS

Review by Amy Laufersweiler, Loveland High School Critic Team

Getting whisked away to a magical school of fantastic beasts, secret corridors, magic spells, and high thrill adventure sounds like a dream come true, right? Well not if you're a Puff , a ragtag crew of misfit students who attend a Certain School of Magic. This remarkable school comes to life in William Mason High School's endearing production of PUFFS! 2 Act Young Wizard Edition.

This comical play pokes fun at the beloved Harry Potter series, putting a satirical twist on well-known tales from the point of view of the series' lesser-known background heroes, the Puffs. Set in 1990s England, the play progresses through the misadventures of Wayne Hopkins (James Hendricks), a Puff hailing from New Mexico, and his new friends as they navigate through the most magical seven years of their lives.

William Mason's unique black box theatre gave actors the ability to create a truly immersive experience for audience members, but also posed a great challenge to the actors to keep in character with little room for error. Even with the challenge of maintaining British accents, Puffs' energetic cast rose to the challenge, rarely breaking character and consistently performing with the idiosyncrasies that make their individual characters unique. Whether it was Hannah (Molly Cronin) whispering about her pet spider or Leanne (Amara Hedges) guiding Sally Perks (Ceileigh Rodway) to her seat in class, the actors did an exceptional job at bringing their characters to life even in scenes where they weren't the primary focus.

The found family dynamic was further reinforced by the chemistry of our leading trio, Wayne Hopkins, Oliver Rivers, and Megan Jones, played by James Hendricks, Ben Ginsberg,<cq> and Delaney Cowles respectively. All 3 exhibited great dedication to their characters, portraying dynamic character development.

Due to the size of the cast and number of roles, nearly every actor was cast in multiple roles with rapid costume changes. A particularly notable dual casting was Ceileigh Rodway's roles as nearsighted Puff Sally Perks and the villainous Xavia Jones. Ceileigh flawlessly transitioned between the 2 drastically different characters, creating different voices and mannerisms for each one, taking on this daunting task with professionalism and ease.

The props team did an excellent job at bringing the story to life. Because of limited set pieces, numerous props had to be created for this production. Crew Head Abbie Dreyer and her props crew cleverly integrated artful props into the show, from beautifully scaled dragon heads to fantastical beast scrapbooks to comical sock puppets, enhancing the homegrown magic of the Puffs' story. The set design was clean and recognizable as this magical school from our childhoods, a highlight of the set definitely being the faux stone and badger crest painted floors designed by paint masters Olivia Thomas and Ingrid Binkis.

In this show, you aren't simply an audience member, you are a Puff. As these charming students captured many hearts, we are reminded that anyone can be a hero, even if you can't slay dragons or save the world from dark lords.

Dakota Lamm, Molly Cronin, and Amara Hedges in William Mason High School’s Production of PUFFS.

Review by Sam Hicks-Jirkins, Mariemont High School Critic Team

In every story, there are background characters whose stories don't get told. In JK Rowling's Harry Potter franchise, those characters tend to be in the Hufflepuff house. Thankfully, the story of these characters was told brilliantly in Mason High School's production of, Puffs.

Puffs, written in 2015 by Matt Cox, tells the story of the titular Puffs' during their seven years at "A Certain School of Magic and Magic" (Hogwarts) while the events of the main Harry Potter series are taking place. In particular, three of these Puffs: Wayne, Oliver, and Megan, are followed closely as their friendship develops despite the stark contrasts between them.

Mason High School's production of Puffs was anchored by its commitment to timing, with every single line, joke, and piece of blocking executed on cue with immaculate execution. The production's use of a black box stage created an atmosphere of complete immersion, making the plight of the Puffs felt through even the slightest facial expression or movement.

In particular, James Hendrick's portrayal of Wayne Hopkins was excellent, with his incredible range as an actor being shown off in every scene, with the highest highs and lowest lows of Wayne's story represented beautifully by Hendricks. Additionally, Delaney Cowle's <cq>portrayal of Megan Jones stayed true to the character, delivering many of the play's most poignant scenes flawlessly. Furthermore, Cowle's chemistry with Ben Ginsberg, who played Oliver Rivers in the production, was very natural as opposed to the forced romantic chemistry in some other productions.

In terms of the supporting cast, Gretchen Knuth played the role of the Narrator, an inherently comedic role, and made it even funnier with her fantastic comedic timing even when she was the only one on stage at times. Among the most notable performances of the individual Puffs was Amara Hedge's enthusiastic performance as Leanne, who provided much of the comic relief in an already humorous show.

The set crew, led by assistant tech director Sarah Bartlett, was for all intents and purposed so efficient that they were unnoticeable, executing every set change to a point that the immersion that the show delicately molds throughout was never lost. The sound design, done by Samuel Aronoff and the aforementioned Hendricks, was also superb, with every sound effect just adding to the lighthearted nature of the performance.

The trials and tribulations of the Puffs may have been overlooked by Rowling in the Harry Potter novels, but that omission was accounted for and then some by the time the ensemble took their bows.

Excerpts From Top Reviews

"The cast and crew did an amazing job of leaving audiences feeling elated and touched with their acting performances and technical prowess. From audience interaction, high energy from the cast, to beautiful puppets created by the props crew; the show was an overall success leaving audiences truly thinking about what it means to be a hero."

-Grace Hoffmann, Roger Bacon High School Critic Team

"The technical elements continued to transport the audience to the wizarding world. The puppetry, from the child-like sock puppets to the squawking Phoenix to the detailed and intimidating dragon, brought the wonder of this world to life. The music and sound effects helped set the mood of the scenes. To round out the technical victories was a detailed yet simple set that utilized the yellow and black Puff colors while also providing a perfect space for the powerful scenes of the show."

-Malayna Pope, Randall K. Cooper High School Critic Team

"At the heart of Mason High School's production were the Puffs themselves. Together, the ensemble brought great energy, giving a relatable group of characters life. The performances were even sympathetic enough to get audible gasps from the audience in the show's darker moments."

-Alex Bertucci, Campbell County High School Critic Team

"The cast and crew members' used their unique black box theater to create an immersive audience experience. Cast members interacted with the audience by jumping to them in fear and sitting in the seats as if the audience were Puffs too. Students also took advantage of their upper levels of the theater to their advantage by dropping props off the catwalk for a magical effect and kept the audience on their toes by starting a scene from above and behind half of the seats."

-Kaitlyn Naylor, Loveland High School Critic Team

"Although the show was a comedy, the actors also displayed heartfelt moments. The actress behind Wayne's friend Megan Jones (Delaney Cowles) tastefully depicted the disconnect between Megan and her mother, who was incarcerated for half of the story. In addition to this, the props team (lead by Abbie Dreyer) provided a wide variety of detailed items, which were exciting to view from the audience."

-Ava VanBuskirk, Loveland High School Critic Team

"Although there were not many props, the props used were always placed with effectiveness. Owls and lists, dropped from the catwalks, Cappies medals envisioned through a mirror, and even a stuffed puppy with a releasable Velcro head, were all accomplished with Mason High School's Puffs."

-Anna Pack, Campbell County High School Critic Team

"Though it was a difficult show to put on, the cast and crew of Mason High School's Puffs! put on an admirable performance that made the audience feel despair, joy, and appreciate the differences that make us all unique."

Tricia Halili-Felse, Loveland High School Critic Team

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