By: Mack Leach
The Drama Learning Centers Teaching Young Actors program started back again Jan. 22-23 with their production of PUFFS! at their theater in Columbia, MD.
Based on the movie series Harry Potter, PUFFS! (a parody) is a chaotic journey following the Puffs' years at "A certain school of male magic and female magic" with fun surprises along the way. From their first meeting, to the final battle, and "the obligatory segment, nineteen years later," one can really see the enlightening story of the Puffs.
The cast and crew of PUFFS, comprised of mostly Howard County students, ran into a few issues regarding the recent spike in the COVID-19 virus which caused them to take their show and rework multiple aspects roughly three weeks before opening night.
"It was hard to constantly have this show might not go up, and there is nothing I can do about it lingering in the back of my mind," Director Sierra Young said.
The show went from being performed without masks, to wearing KN-95s in a matter of days after the mask mandate was reinstated on Dec. 27. This caused the crew to reconsider parts of the show such as how to portray the butterbeer scene and vomiting slugs.
There were multiple rehearsals just before and after winter break where they were missing cast members.
"I wasn’t allowed to come here for a few days," said River Gleason, an eighth-grade student at Bonnie Branch Middle School.
Director Mallory Stern gave some advice for directors trying to put on a show during COVID: "Remain as flexible and transparent as possible with everyone involved in the production. It is much easier to handle rising obstacles when we all have a clear view of what is happening and what our options are. Things will change and the show may not be exactly as you envisioned it, but you can still create something that will make you immensely proud and grateful for the time that you did get to spend with your cast."
The cast of PUFFS was constantly told one thing by director Sierra Young: "Why be one thing when you can be everything else." This message was seen throughout the show of PUFFS and throughout the cast.
The Teaching Young Actors program is much more than a cast of actors, it's a community where you "get to watch everyone in the cast grow as individuals, grow as a group, and grow," according to Hannah Fogler, one of the directors.
Al Norman, a sophomore at Wilde Lake also added, "By the end it felt like a little family."
The program is open to all students in grades 6-12 with their Senior Company program being open to high schoolers only.
Although they have not announced their next show yet, when they do it will be posted on the Drama Learning Center website. Any student in Maryland is encouraged to audition.