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Cloquet production is a magical turn

The latest Cloquet High School spring play is literally magical ... and will look familiar if you're a Harry Potter fan.

But don't expect that name to come up. Sure, there is a person referred to as "Harry," or "Potter," but he's not the star of the show. Rather, this play is about a certain famous fictional school of magic, but the focus is on the Hufflepuffs, who just happened to be there too.

"Puffs, or Seven Increasingly Eventful Years at a Certain School of Magic and Magic" is a 2015 comedy written by playwright Matt Cox, and a walk down a different side of memory lane for fans of JK Rowlings' series, because the "Puffs" are looking at things from a different perspective. For example, when discussing a competition between the different houses, they aim for "third place or nothing."

Director Corey Hunt described the play as "kind of" a spoof, "but it also has a sweet message," he said.

"If you know the original stories, you'll obviously get a lot more of the jokes and references, but it's also a story that stands on its own," he said. "You don't have to be an expert to enjoy the play."

"Puffs" also has lots of special effects.

"I picked a play that could show off our facility," he said. "There are over 100 music cues and sound effects, because you have to show all the magical effects of what is happening. It's stressful, but also lots of fun."

More than 40 kids auditioned - a large number for a non-musical production - and Hunt took every one of them.

"It takes place at a school, so there are lots of background characters: students, minions of the dark lord," he said. "They are having a great time."

Just like their director did, back when he was a student at Cloquet High School, acting under the tutelage of director Julie McMerty.

"She was an institution here, and pretty much the inspiration of the path I took," said the 2001 grad, who most recently taught and directed at Barnum before coming to teach English at Cloquet. "To come full circle has been surreal, but incredible."

The auditorium is the same, but updated since then. Having a solid support team of adults with years of experience has made all the difference for the first-time Cloquet director, he said, naming assistant director Iris Keller, Karen Fox on costumes, John Justad on everything technical and Al Woodword constructing the set that Keller designed.

"It's definitely been a team effort," Hunt said. "And the kids have had so many great ideas that have been integrated into the play."

Note: Just like in the movies, there really are portraits on the wall whose subjects move, which is pretty fun and low tech.

Performances of "Puffs," a Cloquet High School play are set for 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, May 29-30 and 2 p.m. Sunday, May 1. Tickets with reserved seating are available online at the school district homepage or http://www.showtix4u.com/event-details/64283 or available for purchase at the door. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for students and senior citizens.

"Puffs" is appropriate for most ages. Hunt rated it PG for "very minor language" and "a couple parts that might get a little scary for really young children."

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