Celebrate the-boy-who-lived and learn about the history of magic with the new Harry Potter exhibit at the Moline Library.
Celebrate the-boy-who-lived and learn about the history of magic with the new Harry Potter exhibit at the Moline Library.
The most expensive play in Broadway history opened Sunday, April 22. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child cost $33.5 million, runs five and a half hours long (in two parts), and has gotten rave reviews. But while it has plenty of special effects, it’s actually designed for audiences to use their imagination.
“You don’t need millions of dollars to stage a CGI-fest,” says actor Jamie Parker. He plays a grown-up Harry Potter in a story that picks up where the last novel left off, with Harry sending his son off to Hogwarts.
Producers aimed to seduce the audience into seeing what the director wanted them to see, so suitcases become seats on the Hogwarts Express, and a young actor becomes an adult with the help of Polyjuice Potion and a big cloak. Many of the tricks are simple stage illusions, or “rough magic,” as director John Tiffany calls them.
“I could just smell the fact that cloaks and suitcases were going to tell our story beautifully,” Tiffany says. “And I loved the idea that we were doing things that kids could also do at home when they do their version of the story.”
Jack Thorne, who wrote the play, is thrilled by this approach.
He says, “My favorite moment in the play has no dialogue in it, sadly. And it’s a staircase dance, and you just see two boys and two staircases, and the staircases are openly being pushed around by members of the company. Everyone can see what’s happening onstage, there’s no pretense about it. And you see the staircases and the boys interact in an emotionally significant way that tells the story of what’s happening to these kids.”
Cursed Child is an original play, not a stage adaptation. (Author J.K. Rowling consistently rejected overtures to adapt her novels.) “She decided that this should be called the eighth ‘story,’ ” Tiffany says, “and that it should be classed as canon and in some ways this would be her last word on Harry Potter as a character.”
Tiffany, Thorne and Rowling collaborated on the story, which the producers have gone to great lengths to protect. They won’t release any scenes to the media, and audiences are given buttons that say #KeeptheSecrets. (Actor Jamie Parker had to sign a nondisclosure agreement when he got hired to do a reading.) But the script is available in bookstores and, at this point, pretty much anyone who cares knows what the play is about.
Tiffany says it’s as epic as the books, and insists he never worried it couldn’t be staged. “I absolutely believe and know that theater can do anything. If you harness the audience, and if you ask just enough of them, and if they’re willing to come with you, then they will make believe that anything is happening.”
As for the producers, they believed Harry Potter’s immense popularity would bring in new theater audiences. Producer Sonia Friedman says, “In our first couple of years in London, over 60 percent of our audience [were] first-time theatergoers.”
That sounds a lot like 9-year-old Domenic Simionetti, who attended a recent matinee (his first play) with his mom. He wore a cloak, just like Harry Potter.
“I saw the special effects and I thought they looked really cool,” he said, “because I’ve never seen special effects like that, only in movies.”
Tom Cole edited this story for broadcast. Nicole Cohen adapted it for the Web.
Brian Selznick has created the 20th anniversary covers for the Harry Potter books. They are available starting June 26. USA Today reports “When placed side-by-side chronologically, the seven books create a single image that tells Harry’s story, from his arrival at No. 4 Privet Drive to the final Battle of Hogwarts.” A box set of all the books will issue in September.
A new book by J.R.R. Tolkien will publish in late August. Entertainment Weekly reports that The Fall of Gondolin, previously unpublished, furthers the stories of Middle Earth. It is edited by Christopher Tolkien and illustrated by Alan Lee. It is currently soaring on Amazon.
Parenthood is a common topic in literature for obvious reasons – the abundance of turmoil being chief among them. Fatherhood has specifically been increasingly on my mind as of late. For me, it’s looming – with all the attendant anxiety, hope, misgivings, and doubts that collectively make up this hazy concept of anticipation – just on the horizon. My wife is due with our first child by year’s end, and as is customary in these situations, our little guy will be arriving with no consideration of whether I am prepared or not (apparently kids are funny that way).
Despite receiving many assurances that I will know what to do when this tiny bundle of humanity arrives, I have my doubts. While these waters are undoubtedly well-traveled and well-charted, the journey is nonetheless a daunting one. As is often the case with virtually all other facets of life, literature is a remarkable place to turn for guidance.
With an adventure that feels puzzling, exciting, and terrifying drawing ever closer, I turned to the well-worn pages of a handful of beloved books to puzzle out a possible ideal of fatherhood. Here’s what I found.
Perhaps the pinnacle of literary fatherhood, Atticus Finch represents an ideal that may be unattainable, but is none the less worth striving for. Deeply kind with an unerring moral compass, Atticus gave his children a sense of the world as it was, and more importantly, as it should be. He did not hide Scout and Jem from the darkness of the society in which they were raised. Rather, he gave them a light to cut through that darkness with an eye toward a better tomorrow. It was a mark of not only love, but a deep respect for his children and their ability to understand the nuances of the world around them to hopefully leave it better than they found it. In the words of Atticus Finch, “I wanted you to see what real courage is. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do.”
Arthur Weasley is one of my favorite literary fathers. The Weasley children were exasperated and beguiled by their father’s exploits. His unbridled love for the world around him, and for muggles, gave his children an understanding, whether they realized or not, of how to find joy in even the most simple life experiences. He was a father, a protector, a co-conspirator, a mentor, and a friend, likely to join in his children’s hijinks while also providing words of fatherly wisdom. Arthur was a man who loved life – its myriad and minute joys. Whether it’s his excitement in learning his sons absconded with his flying car, or a paternal aside with Harry to assure that he will be safe and taken of, Arthur Weasley is evidence of the delight and wonder that can be found in parenting.
George R. R. Martin
Quality fathers are not in particular abundance within the borders of Westeros. Ned Stark is a notable and appreciated exception. Though Ned was far too honorable and just to thrive in the world of A Song of Ice and Fire, his noble qualities made him a tremendous father and influence on the lives of not only the Stark children, but Jon Snow and even Theon Greyjoy. Indeed, his acceptance of both Jon and Theon are markers of his caring, stern, paternalistic nature. Similar to Atticus Finch, Ned understood the harsh realities of the lives his children would lead, and he did his best to prepare them for what was to come. More than anything else, Ned sought to instill in his children a sense of responsibility. While certainly an extreme and severe example, when Ned requires his sons to witness him executing a deserter of the Night’s Watch, he modeled for his children that while there are consequences for one’s actions, responsibility must also be taken for one’s decisions. It was a harsh lesson, but an essential one.
When I think of the things that I would want for a child, much of it can be boiled to down to two traits – curiosity and wonder. They are things that are so easy to take for granted – but if happiness and contentment are the destination, curiosity and wonder may just be the path. Hans Huberman, or Papa as he is affectionately known to young Liesel in The Book Thief, helps Liesel to discover the world around through her growing desire and curiosity to read. More importantly, it’s a journey he happily takes alongside her, guiding where he can but also encouraging her independence and inquisitiveness with his own. His kindness, patience, and exhilaration for the world around them – difficult and harrowing as it may be – proved a powerful example well worth emulating.
I just spent years burrowing my way through four thousand years of literature, and now, upon emerging from the lower depths of history, I am supposed to predict which recent books will still be talked about a hundred years from now? As if predicting the past wasn’t hard enough.
We pick and choose from the store of literature depending on our changing needs. Take Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, set in New England, which Atwood knew from her student days at Harvard. Published in 1985, this dystopian tale of a theocratic society spoke to fears associated with the rising Christian right and Ronald Reagan. Who knew that it would be relevant thirty years later, in Trump’s America? And that it would be revived by Hulu, garnering the first Emmy for a streaming platform?
New technologies will use striking tales at moments when we’re particularly dumbfounded by the world around us and desperately turn to the past for guidance. I hope that if people still read The Handmaid’s Tale a hundred years from now – and they definitely should – that they do so not because they need this story, but because they can’t believe that people were plagued by such worries in the past.
When I contemplate the future of literature, my thoughts invariably turn to Jennifer Egan’s A Visit From the Goon Squad (the title is a metaphor for the ravages of time). Egan’s interlocking tales are engrossing, and she includes intriguing predictions, such as future teenagers rejecting the tattoos of their parents’ generation. Egan also imagines new forms of literature by writing the last section of her novel in PowerPoint. I don’t think we’ll have PowerPoint a hundred years from now – I sure hope it will be gone much sooner than that – but A Visit From the Goon Squad will be, at the very least, a record of how a great novelist imagined the future back in 2010. I think they’ll enjoy it.
We’re living through an unparalleled moment of technological change, and The Written World: The Power of Stories to Shape People, History, Civilization was an attempt to look back and see what had happened at earlier such moments, including the invention of the tablet, of paper, the bound book, and print. Which of our stories will be seized by future technologies? I bet that Harry Potter will be among them.
We’ve now had an entire generation of readers growing up with these stories, reading them, watching them, playing them, living them, breathing them. Soon, this Potter generation will be reading these stories to their children, and why should it stop there? And Potter has been adapting to new technologies with particular agility, not just film but also fan sites and theme parks. If we bomb ourselves back into the Stone Age, future archeologists might dig up Potterworld in Orlando and wonder which stories these underwater ruins were built on. At such a time, Harry Potter will rise from the floods the way The Epic of Gilgamesh arose from the banks of the River Tigris in the nineteenth-century, bringing news from a distant era.
Martin Puchner is the Byron and Anita Wien Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Harvard University. His bestselling six-volume Norton Anthology of World Literature and HarvardX MOOC (massive open online course) have brought four thousand years of literature to students across the globe. His latest book, The Written World, tells the story of how literature shaped world history. Here, Martin shares what books he thinks will be talked about one hundred years from now.
Today is the birthday of one of literature’s most beloved and long-suffering sidekicks, Dr. John Watson. A war veteran as well as an accomplished writer and detective, Watson gives Sherlock Holmes much-needed backup and friendship, all while enduring less-than-complimentary observations about his character. “You have a grand gift for silence, Watson,” Sherlock says at one point. “It makes you quite invaluable as a companion.”
To celebrate the good doctor’s birthday, [goodreads.com] asked you on Facebook and Twitter to share your favorite book sidekicks. Check out some of the most popular answers below and add your own in the comments!
1. Dr. John Watson
Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes books and stories
Sherlock’s friend, roommate, biographer, crime-solving partner and on-hand physician
2. Ron and Hermione
J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books
Harry’s fellow Gryffindors, friends, partners in managing mischief, frequent rescuers (especially Hermione) and family
Every once in a while someone comes along that you can just tell is going to be special. Someone that will voluntarily take the place of her younger sister as a sacrificial participant in a brutal contest of combat and survival where the only way to get out alive is to kill. And win. Twice. And then become the symbol of the resistance force that will rise up to fight the oppressive and brutal regime that oversaw the whole bloody contest to begin with. And then succeed in overthrowing the whole government and setting up a new society… For example.
More importantly, in the real world at least, Katniss and her story (The Hunger Games trilogy, just in case there is anyone reading this that doesn’t already know) helped get people into reading in a big way. It did for post-apocalyptic YA what Twilight did for vampires or what Harry Potter did for witches and wizards – it brought it out of the realm of genre fiction and made it mainstream. It made it cool. And people, in particular young people, pay attention to what’s cool. Not bad for a teen-aged poacher from the outer districts. Join us in issuing a three-finger salute to Katniss on her special day.