Potterheads marathon “Cursed Child”


Students gathered in Hillman Library Friday night to for a group reading of new play. Courtesy of Kaitlin Mausser.

By Nikita Karulkar / Staff Writer

Adorned in black capes and Gryffindor scarves, self-described “Potterheads” gathered around Pitt student Alice Cheng as she channeled Albus Potter in a resonant voice Friday afternoon.  

“How to distract Scorpius from difficult emotional issues,” Cheng read from “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.” “Take him to a library.”

In a library of their own for the afternoon, Cheng –– co-president of Pitt Project Potter –– and 23 other readers participated in the University Library Systems’ read-a-thon. But instead of reading long blocks of text in standard book format, participants used voice acting to read the play, “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.”

“It’s a play, so it’s more fun to read, rather than reading blocks of text,” Cheng said.

Pitt Project Potter, a Harry Potter-themed community service club, hosted the “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Read-a-Thon,” with the ULS and the department of English.

The ULS has hosted various read-a-thons, with similar formats but different books. Last November, the ULS hosted a read-a-thon for “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” in collaboration with the English department’s literature program.

This year was the first time Pitt Project Potter was involved. The Cup and Chaucer Cafe on the ground floor of the Hillman Library filled with 92 students and community members decked out in Gryffindor shirts, long black capes and Harry Potter backpacks.

As attendees came in, a library employee dressed up as Dumbledore welcomed them to the event. Off to the side of Cup and Chaucer, the club had constructed a makeshift photo booth with various Harry Potter-themed frames and props.

The 24 reading volunteers stood in a semicircle around microphones and read the latest “unofficial” installment of the Harry Potter universe. Attendees sat with coffee and cookies and listened intently to the play, which Jack Thorne wrote based on the original story by J.K. Rowling.

Although the readers couldn’t officially perform the play due to copyright issues, they embraced their roles with emphatic shouting and animated reading.

The club members and Pitt students brought characters to life in the form of an intensely animated Albus Potter played by Cheng and a lost and inattentive Ron Weasley played by Emily Cumpston. Alex Raso, who played Ludo Bagman ––  a Ministry of Magic employee and former Quidditch player ––  got into her role with a loud, sonorous voice as she tried to capture Bagman’s comedic characterization.

Maria Delgrande, the club’s activities liaison, said the read-a-thon was chance for club members and Potterheads to dress up and bond over their love for Harry Potter.

“We had a lot of people who really got into their parts, and there was really good voice acting,” Delgrande said.

Shannon Gallagher, Project Potter’s community outreach liaison, took on the role of the narrator.

“Narrating was kind of interesting because, without stage directions, you really don’t get a full picture of what’s going on,” Gallagher said. “I hadn’t read ‘Cursed Child,’ and it was really fun.”

Attendees also participated in a drawing to win Harry Potter merchandise, which the English department and film studies program funded, including a Harry Potter bedset, all seven books with the new 2016 artwork and two copies of “Cursed Child” with handmade wands.

Every reading volunteer also received a free t-shirt, courtesy of the ULS.

Lori Campbell, the club’s adviser and a professor in the English department, said the idea of the read-a-thon came up last spring when Student Affairs reached out to all departments about hosting an event during family weekend.

“We had a really short deadline, but we decided to go for it,” Campbell said. “Over the summer, it kind of all came together.”

Kaitlin Mausser, part of a local Harry Potter band called Muggle Snuggle, hosted her own reading of “Cursed Child” at her house in August and helped Project Potter structure the event and delegate characters.

“I’m really intrigued about how they crafted all the special effects,” Mausser said. “I love all of J.K. Rowling’s works, and I love theatre. This play [was] a fun mix of my two favorite things.”

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