Middletown will perform "Harry Potter and the Cursed Child" this November. (Photo by RDNE Stock project/Pexels)

Middletown HS to stage Harry Potter ‘Cursed Child’ this fall

Jarek RutzHeadlines, Culture

Middletown will perform "Harry Potter and the Cursed Child" this November. (Photo by RDNE Stock project/Pexels)

Middletown will perform “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” this November. (Photo by RDNE Stock project/Pexels)

The magic of Hogwarts is headed to 27 high schools in America – including one in the First State.

Middletown High School in Appoquinimink School District will be full of wizards and wands Nov. 8-10 as its theater crew of more than 60 students in four performances of J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.”

“We’re expecting more to participate with this just because it’s Harry Potter,” said Brianna Barkus, a biology teacher in Appo who helps with theater productions.

She described herself as the “right hand man” of Middletown’s Theater Director Jeff Dietzler.

Dietzler said the school applied in November 2023 for the licensing rights to the play, which included a video showcasing why the school is a magical place. 

They also had to describe certain characteristics of the school like how it’s inclusive and an environment that everyone can be a part of.

The two weren’t positive they wanted to apply, but Barkus was given an opportunity to see the show on Broadway for just $40.

“It was funny because we decided to use that for our application video,” Dietzler said. “Part of our video, at the start, we kind of set it up like we were doing wizardry…I was like ‘We have to go see this’ and we hid her under a platform and then made it seem like she disappeared and then in the video she popped up at the Broadway theater in a telephone booth and magically appeared.”

The fandom of the Harry Potter series spans ages, and Dietzler and Barkus said they’ve been congratulated and bombarded with excitement from both teachers and students. 

Barkus said a wave of elation spread through the theater students once Dietzler started playing Harry Potter music and told them they were selected to perform. 

While magic and special effects are integral to the show, Dietzler said the high school renditions are scaled down a bit from the fiery theatrics of the Broadway show.

Barkus joked that there will not be pyrotechnics in their high school auditorium. 

“At one point they had like a literal pool on the stage, acting as a lake,” she said. “That’s not going to be in our product, we’re not going to fill the pit with water.”

But, Dietzler said, trying to make the show magical and incorporating special effects is part of the eight-month process leading up to the shows.

“I checked with my family, I was like ‘We’re going to work on getting David Copperfield to come in,’” he joked. “But, I have a good friend who I’ve worked with previously at other high schools who actually is a magician and in the magic club so I’m going to reach out to him as a resource because I don’t want it to just be things lighting up, I really try and create some actual magic effects and tricks on stage.”

The production will likely cost around $10,000 to $15,000, sets, costumes and renting technology equipment.

Licensing for a show is typically $500 maximum, but Dietzler said bigger name productions like Harry Potter usually run about $1,000, which includes the rights to perform, scripts and music. 

Middletown High definitely has creative freedom to put their own touch on the show, within limits. 

“As is the case with most shows, we can’t change the setting, so we can’t say we’re going to place it on the moon,” Dietzler said. “But in regards to how the set looks, the costumes, that really is up to us.”

However, he and Barkus said the books and movies do frame an expectation of what the play will look like.

Dietzler said because they are the first school in Delaware to perform this, it’s better to stick to what the known is. 

“If there are shows that have been done over and over, that’s the time when you can say I’m going to put my own spin, like a ‘Seussical’ or something like that,” Dietlzer said. “For those, people are always looking for a new way to present it that people haven’t seen because they’ve seen it so much. 

“But since this is new, I don’t think we have to necessarily think too far out of the box, and I think since it’s a show that involves so much magic and imagery anyway, a lot of it’s kind of there for us already.”

Luckily for Middletown High, the theater program put on a production of “Puffs” a comedic parody of the Harry Potter book series from the perspective of the Puffs, those who live in the Hufflepuff House of Hogwarts.

A fun tidbit of the Middletown High theater crew is that those who were freshmen during the production of “Puffs” are now seniors, so their high school theatrical career is bookmarked by the lore of Harry Potter.

“I think that’s one of the good things about doing ‘Puffs’ already as well is because it was all very magical because it was still the Harry Potter world,” Barkus said, “so we already have a little experience on how to make that magic look real, and now we can just kind of grow that a little more with that Harry Potter magic.”

She said her experience at the Broadway show will benefit the team while creating special effects.

Since she was in one of the front rows, she said she was able to see behind the curtain a bit and was able to tell how they were doing some of the magic. 

“There’s this one scene where they’re having this battle and they go flipping through the air,” she said. “Well, I could see, and I guarantee that no one behind me could see, that there was a stage crew person there that was literally all in black, who picked him up and flipped them around.”

She said her vantage point allowed her to analyze all those little pieces, almost like she was watching it in slow motion.

The school is performing a “The Prom” musical March 15-17.

Once that’s finished, Dietzler said he will decide when casting will be and whether it will be before students leave for summer or immediately when they return in the fall.

One of the licensing requirements is that the school has to put on its productions a little earlier than it’s used to.

“The first step is to figure out when and how that’ll happen, and then after that, we have a great team of parents that have kind of become our technical team,” he said. “We actually meet like weeks ahead of the show, so we’ll probably even start before the end of the school year … That way we can start to budget and plan accordingly.”

The school tries to reuse as best as they can, and that will include sets and costumes already in stock that can be incorporated.

“That’s probably be the next big start of the process, but then not too much will happen over the summer,” Dietzler said. “Once we get back in about August, we’ll hit that ground running and really get into building everything from there.”

The show times now are planned for:

  • Friday, Nov. 8 at 7:30 p.m.
  • Saturday, Nov. 9 at 2 p.m.
  • Saturday, Nov. 9 at 7:30 p.m.
  • Sunday, Nov. 10 at 2 p.m.
  • Sunday, Nov. 10 at 7:30 p.m.

When tickets not available in the fall, they can be purchased online here

All proceeds go back into the theater department and help set the production budget for future shows.

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