Puffs and the People Who Make the Magic

Acting as a substitute for an absent student, Mr. Nelson, director, reads a scene from Puffs with the cast in the second readthrough of the play. “I am very very lucky to have this job,” Nelson said. “It’s rewarding to get to see the effects of what I do and what I do is share the thing that I love.”

Natalie Corona, Writer

Both muggles and wizards have been bombarded with the grand tales of The Boy Who Lived and all his triumphs. Everyone can recall the pivotal roles of Gryffindor, Slytherin, and Ravenclaw characters in Potter’s narrative, but what about the Hufflepuffs? DHS Drama Department presents Puffs, or 7 Increasingly Eventful Years at a Certain School of Magic and Magic, a comedic retelling of the acclaimed novel series, highlighting the disconcerted honey-badgered wallflowers as they deal with their own adventures and misfortunes in the wizarding world. 


In this account, we follow the journey of a young orphan who finds out he descends from a line of British wizards and is destined to go to a magical school. That child is Wayne Hopkins: a dorky boy from New Mexico who longs to be the hero of the story. Hopkins is played by Ben Burciaga, 12, a Hufflepuff who has been doing drama for three years while also dabbling in surfing and poetry. When it comes to excitement, Burciaga can’t wait to see the final product of this production.


“I’m just really excited to see how it’s gonna come out,” Burciaga said. “Especially with all the new actors we have. I’m excited to see them get better throughout the whole process or even see myself slowly get better throughout the process—learning [about] my character more.”


Hopkins isn’t alone during his years in wizarding school. Oliver Rivers, a prodigious mathematician who isn’t entirely fond of being reduced to a simple wizard, is one of Hopkin’s close companions and is played by Victor Garica, 12. Garcia is also a Puff and has an ardent passion for the acting and film industry. For this stage play, Garcia anticipates creating new friendships and improving his acting skills. Megan Jones, a gothic girl who is against being sorted as a Puff, completes this trio and is played by former Downey swimmer, Deborah De La Torre, 12, and Slytherin. De La Torre has been doing drama since her transfer from Warren last year and also partakes in dance outside of school. When it comes to her character, De La Torre believes Jones is really trying to find herself and learn to be independent. 


Who else was sorted as a Puff? Hannah, a socially awkward girl who is prone to mockery by other houses, was deemed as one. Hannah is played by Aria Bojorquez, 11, who is also a Puff and has participated in three plays and two musicals during her time at Downey High. Bojorquez looks forward to strengthening her bonds with her cast members and hopes to become more outgoing and comfortable with herself through this experience. Ernie Mac is another Puff who is extremely confident in themselves and highly skilled in magic. Mac is played by Erika Arteaga Aguilar, 12, and Gryffindor, who has been in the Theater Department for four years, is ITS president, vice president of the Writing Center, and a Femineer. Arteaga is thrilled by the magic of this production and aims to perfect her British accent. J Finch Fletchley, a nerdy character with a tendency to be loud, is also considered a Puff and is performed by Eli Arcia, 11, who is a Puff, too. Arcia loves the humorous aspect of his character and is eager to make people laugh. As a first-timer, Arcia aims to learn to be more confident in performing in front of an audience. 


Isabella Avalos, 12, is Sally Perks, a Puff with an ebullient personality who, in time, becomes the love interest of Wayne Hopkins. Unlike her character, Avalos was sorted as a Slytherin and is passionate about the performing arts, especially theater and dance. Not only will Avalos be on stage, but will also be handling the costuming of this play. Another significant Puff character is Susie Bones who spends her school years with great trepidation about death due to the murder of the majority of her family. Bones is played by Isabela Urueta, 10, who is excited to perform in front of an audience, learn the staging, and improve in controlling her emotions when acting. Leanne is a Puff whose character is a vessel of energy that brings everyone together and raises the mood in dreary times. Leanne is played by Celine Bautista, 9, who also is Blippy, a house elf. Bautista is enthusiastic to execute a quick change scene and see the coming together of a specific scene in Puffs. Not only does Bautista act in school, but also outside, and is also talented in singing and guitar playing.


Javier Miranda, 11, and Gryffindor, is Cedric and Zach Smith. Diggory is the face of the Puffs and adored by all and Zach Smith is an intense jock who has a tendency to spew lots of profanity. Miranda cannot wait to be on stage and perform in front of everyone and aims to continue acting in the future. Miranda is also in Improv and plays volleyball. Micah Rodriguez, 11, also Gryffindor, is Harry Potter who, in this version, comes across as rather pretentious and ignorant, stealing everyone’s moment. This is Rodriguez’s fourth play; Rodriguez was a part of a theater company at a young age and has been in The Wizard of Oz, Jungle Book, and Guardians of the Galaxy. Rodriguez is most excited about the ambitious sound cues and directions in this production and desires to create new connections. 


In every story, there is always a narrator to guide the audience. Puff’s narrator is played by aspiring actress Brianna Loya, 12, a Gryffindor who is a huge fan of Harry Potter and enjoys creating content on Tiktok and Youtube. Loya cannot wait to practice cool wand tricks for this upcoming production and hopes to broaden her acting range and improve her memorization skills.


Alyssa Davis, 11, and Hufflepuff, is Professor McG, First Headmaster, and Xavia Jones. Xavia Jones is the infamous mother of Megan Jones who is a devoted follower to You-Know-Who, Professor McG is the hat sorter, and First Headmaster is a man with a massive beard and carefree attitude. Previously working on Clue taught Davis that it takes a team and endless communication to make progress in a stage play. Davis cannot wait to make many endearing memories with her cast and hopes to learn how to handle different types of roles. Improv actor Jaylan Price, 11, and Ravenclaw, plays Uncle Dave, Seamus, Mr. Voldy, Real Mr. Moody, and Clumsy Longbottom. Out of a wide variety of characters, Price considers Uncle Dave to be his favorite because he is the ideal uncle; stubborn, but amusing. Price is most excited about rehearsing and strives to improve at acting and public speaking.


Ethan Carmona, 10, plays A Very Tall Man, Goyle, Viktor, and A Fat Friar. Carmona is excited to rehearse, get to know more in-depth who his characters are, and overall, have fun. Carmona desires to enhance his acting skills through Puffs and use the knowledge he learns as an aid for future acting. Dahlia Gutierrez, 10, Gryffindor, is playing Rita Scooter, Second Headmaster, and Professor Turban. Rita Scooter is a journalist who tends to exaggerate things, Professor Turban is a teacher with a frequent stutter, and the Second Headmaster is a character who is assertive and strict with kids. Gutierrez enjoys theater and seeing how everything works and is most excited to see how it’s going to come together and perform on opening night. Besides acting, Gutierrez enjoys all types of art forms, especially poetry and music, but foresees herself studying to become a plastic surgeon in the near future.


Sania Rueda, 11, is Blondo Malfoy, Ginny, Rowena, and Mr Bagman. Blondo Malfoy is a selfish and rude student, Ginny is a sweet girl, Mr. Bagman is a teacher, and Rowena is said to be a puppet. This is Ruedas’s first time being a part of a play and decided to audition because of her fun experience in last year’s musical, A Chorus Line. Rueda aims to be less afraid of experimenting with differing characters and voices. Paige Jackson, 12, a potential Slytherin, is A Certain Potion’s Teacher, Frenchy, and Professor Sprouty. Professor Sprouty is super peppy and filled with enthusiasm, A Certain Potiton’s Teacher has a groggy and monotone voice that puts everyone else to sleep, and Frenchy is a stereotypical french girl. Jackson has done drama since 6th grade and also participates in cheerleading and singing. Jackson is most excited about seeing all the props and effects and jokes and seeing the way the audience reacts to them.


Brissa Alvarez, 10, is Helga, Hermeoone #2, Mr. Nick, and Babble. Alvarez is excited to see the costumes of this production. When it comes to a goal to accomplish, Alvarez hopes to learn patience. Mirando Blanco, 9, Slytherin, is playing three different roles: Sal, Ghost History Teacher, and Hermeoone #3. Blanco loves Harry Potter and is excited to be able to immerse herself in the world. Besides acting, Blanco is a competitive dancer and enjoys singing and has even sung the national anthem for her 8th-grade promotion. 


Charlize Leslie-Barrera, 9, Slytherin, is Professor Lanny, Professor Locky, Runes Teach, and Ms. Babble. Barrera’s characters are all elective teachers with differing personalities; Professor Lanny is the most dramatic, Runes Teach has an attitude of not caring, Ms. Bubble wizards about muggle history, and Professor Locky is simply just there. Barrera finds herself to be excited to work together with her close friend, Celine Bautista, and for a special someone to see it and is hoping to refine her British accent. Outside of acting, Barrera plays electric guitar and is a competitive dragon boat racer for girls scout and So Cal adult team. 


Those who work behind the scenes are also vital to the production. Yaretzi Hernandez, 11, and Gryffindor, is a part of the crew and takes on the role of Stage Manager and Sound Designer. As a stage manager, Hernandez makes sure that everyone is on task and communicates directly with the crew. Hernandez also does this role in the big theater and is learning how to call the show by herself. When it comes to being a sound designer, she looks for specific song cues to enhance the experience for the audience. Hernandez enjoys seeing everyone’s progress as the actors are growing and developing their characters.


“I’ve really felt like I’ve come out of my shell a lot more,” Hernandez said. “I’ve met so many people who are so nice and willing to work with me with things and help me understand what drama really is.”


The man behind the magic is drama teacher Christopher Nelson, previous Gryffindor and now proud Hufflepuff. Like many actors, Nelson began his teaching career as a substitute teacher in order to support himself as he pedaled through the acting industry. Through substitute teaching, Nelson was given the opportunity to teach 6th grade and taught Language Arts and Social Studies. This continued for a few years, but Nelson came to the realization that if he were to continue on this pathway, he should at least teach the subject he is passionate about and loves: drama. Mr. Nelson became aware of the play, Puffs, last year and was captivated by its heartfelt theme despite it being a comedic production.


“There’s something for everybody,” Mr. Nelson stated. “Yes, it’s kinda geared towards people who know and love Harry Potter, but it’s also geared towards people who are annoyed by the idea of Harry Potter… It’s there for everybody because Harry Potter was such a part of our culture; everybody has an opinion on it.”


Whether muggle-born, half-blood, or pure-blood, Harry Potter enthusiast or disliker, come support this talented cast and experience the magic of Puffs at the Little Theater in Downey High from November 9th to November 18th.