Ahead of the closing of Puffs, Hypable interviewed the four remaining members of the original cast, who will have been with Puffs from its humble beginnings to the very end: Zac Moon (Wayne Hopkins), Andy Miller (Leanne), Stephen Stout (Ernie Mac, and a producer on the show), and Madeleine Bundy (Susie Bones/Harry Potter, and the designer of the show).
For context, Puffs opened in December 2015 at the People’s Improv Theater (PIT), and we’ve been championing it ever since. After years of surprise success following surprise success, the NYC production will close on August 18th. The last week is going to be an epic Puffs celebration – as Stephen Stout said, “Most shows, they fade into the darkness as a respectful walk. We’re going for more Viking funeral. What else exists out there that we haven’t done yet?”
Read on for the actors’ highlights, reflections, and a scoop about what the Puffs team will do next!
Irvin Khaytman (IK): Have you had a favorite experience with the show?
Zac Moon (ZM): Going to MISTI-Con, going to Tacoma for the Weekend of Wizardry. Just anytime interacting with fans at the fan events. I remember the first time that anyone stopped us for autographs, outside of the PIT after the show. I was just like, “Wait, what? Is this real?”
Andy Miller (AM): Having so many people dress up as me… that might not happen in my life ever again. That’s a character that I created! Somebody just sent me a picture: they made a Funko Pop of Leanne. And people have given us Chocolate Frog cards. It’s just seeing how much this show means to other people, and being able to be a part of that. Now that middle schoolers and young kids are doing this show, they messaged us, “I just got cast as this part. It’s so exciting!” I remember when I was young, and starting musical theatre, thinking of [those] people as so cool. And now knowing that I’m potentially one of those people… it’s mind-boggling. That I get to be a part of something that people love so much has been the coolest thing.
Madeleine Bundy (MB): The crazy thing to me is the cosplayers! We had a family about six weeks ago, the mom was J-Finch and the dad was Zach Smith. The son was Voldy, and the little girl was Susie Bones. That kind of stuff is just utterly delightful! I’m a totally green designer, I’m still learning and trying things. Even one person cosplaying would be lovely and exciting, but the fact that dozens have done it… that’s so insane to me.
When we were in San Diego Comic-Con, I saw someone in a Puffs sweatshirt. I went up to say hi, and one of her friends had made Wayne’s t-shirt for SDCC. He said that people were like, “Hey, I love Puffs!” People recognized it. And I’m so grateful. I love every fan that has done that.
Stephen Stout (SS): Making the movie was pretty surreal. Right after the Internet had found us, the second or third thing we received was “When is this going to be on the internet? When are we gonna be able to watch this thing?”
IK: What was it like seeing yourself 20 feet tall at Fathom Events?
SS: I haven’t! The largest I’ve ever seen myself is maybe five feet, when we did the commentary. It’s super weird. I’ve traditionally done mostly theater, and the beauty of that is you don’t know what you look like. So watching yourself, there’s a little bit of body dysmorphia and a little bit of not being able to tell what you did. But I watched it and [thought], “Everybody else is really great and charming. Okay, so by law of averages, I hope I’m in that same boat.”
AM: I’m not a film actor, so I don’t generally have to watch myself. So it was stressful. [But] it’s exciting, because my family and all of my family friends could go see it in Michigan. That meant a lot to me: them being able to see that I’m doing a pretty good job out here. That was the coolest part for me.
MB: I don’t enjoy looking at myself on camera. That is a surreal experience for me. I don’t remember a lot of it. It’s hard for some people to look at themselves objectively, because I just see everything that’s wrong. I know what my Plato’s-chair ideal vision is for everything – not just for the design stuff, but also for my acting. So I had a lot of moments of like, “Oh my god, is that what that looks like? Or sounds like? That’s not what I meant at all!”
It’s hard, especially since I don’t go around thinking I deserve to be up there. That’s not my personality at all. I love to act, but I weirdly don’t like the attention. I want to act, but I also don’t want you to look at me.
ZM: That was surreal. I had been in one other movie that I was able to see on a big screen. And it was for, like, 30 seconds. But seeing the entire show, in a theater full of people – cast and crew, and fans that we know, and friends – was totally unreal. They give us the code to watch the movie. I watched it on my roof the night before, by myself, just so I wouldn’t cringe the entire time at what I was doing. So I could enjoy it [later with everyone]. Getting to watch it in the theater was utterly amazing.
IK: You all have done such an amazing job engaging with the larger HP fandom, and have been embraced by them in turn.
MB: feel really grateful and lucky that I got to help make a project that is meaningful to the people that love this fandom. It turned out [that] it was something that they were waiting for and hoped for.
IK: Puffs came at pretty much the perfect time, when the official material coming out of the Wizarding World was found lacking – and here was this wonderful love letter to the books we love!
MB: I want to put this delicately… This is not specific to the wizarding world, necessarily. From some of these larger corporations, there is a slight lack of a sense of humor, or joy, or playfulness. So many people see [how] the fans are really serious about following things that they love. It’s hard not to see it that way, because of the Internet. But this stuff is fun! We love it because it’s fun. It was our goal with Puffs and with future projects: as serious as we’re taking it, it also needs to be playful and loving, and show that you care about the source material.
SS: It’s always been important to me to maintain a level of intentionality. As silly as the show is, there’s a lot of heart to it. Maintaining that integrity has been instrumental. People will message us, “I’m in the West Coast premiere of this show. Do you have any advice?” And always going back to, “Remember that there’s heart.” As a creative producer, that’s been the most important for me: to keep that flame nurtured as the show has gone on, and into whatever other life it’s gonna go.
When we were doing Kapow-i GoGo (the giant, crazy Toonami play we did way back when), me and Colin [Waitt] (who’s the original co-producer) were talking about what kind of audience we would want for this sort of property. Lo these many years later, we found that community. They actually want to come out and have fun experiences with other like-minded people at a live play. They’re fabulously diverse and intelligent, and super passionate about things. Those people have very high standards, and aren’t quiet when they dislike something. For those people to embrace the show, and for us to have cleared that somewhat scary bar of fandom cred, that’s been a really lovely surprise. . We hope that the amount of detail that we put in it is worth the amount of times that people have come and seen it – many, many, many times.
ZM: It’s so cool to have met this amazing group of fans that are so passionate and so unapologetically loud about following something as cool as the show. It’s been such a blessing.
IK: What surprised you the most about the fans’ response?
MB: From a design perspective, to completely steer away from the whole look of the world was really scary. But I really believed in it: if we’re going to do this thing, I think it’s got to look completely different. I was confident , but it was still a scary thought, especially when you know that this fandom is so in love with the world. But by and large, people have seemed to understand why it looks the way it does. That is a huge pleasant surprise to me.
AM: There was this dad who Tweeted at me that his daughter was quoting Helga lines around the house. I think she was eight or ten years old. And it was just so sweet. She was dressed up as Dobby, but she wanted to be talking about Helga.
SS: I think the core of the original source material is how in dark times there are people there who will fight for you, and communities that exist to support you and love you even in the darkest of times. And to have people who have come to the show and made things for us like t-shirts, or write to us personally… letters or messages that express, “I’ve been going through a dark time. And this means so much to me, because these things helped me.” Even if it’s just, “You made me laugh when I really needed a laugh.” That’s been really cool and surprising.
ZM: A moment I will certainly never forget, was when we did the reading of 19 Years Later [the Puffs equivalent of Cursed Child]. Doing the entrance through the sliding doors, and people just exploding.
IK: What’s going through your head at that moment, when there’s a few minutes of thunderous applause all for your character entrance?
ZM: Oh, it’s absolutely absurd. It’s unlike anything I could have ever imagined. In my wildest dreams, [I] never would have been like, “Yeah, this is a thing I should have, or deserve.” It’s not just me, obviously, it’s all about this thing [playwright] Matt [Cox] and all of us created.
IK: That moment, almost more than any other, is such a huge testament to what you guys have created. This is an original character; that applause was entirely for something that you and Matt Cox made.
ZM: It’s a testament to how much care and love went into all of that. And to see that resonate with people over the years has been like… truly, it’s hard to really put into words. It’s really incredible to me, to have played any small part in in that.
IK: Do you have a favorite Easter egg in the show?
AM: The butterbeer scene where Hannah goes, “I hear he can turn into a flowering shrub.” Because in the book, there’s a line that says Hannah went around telling everyone that would listen that he could turn into a flowering shrub. It seems like just an off-the-cuff reference, but it’s a very specific thing.
ZM: When we’re all in the huddle during the “we are not a threat, please be our friend” – [it] is actually a reference to one single line in the book, which is that “Harry and Ron ran past a group of confused Puffs.” I had no idea that that was actually reference until we started at the Elektra, so eight months of doing the show without realizing that.
SS: There’s a lot of detail on the doors that the audience would never get to see. There’s the state of Florida on one of the doors, because we did a workshop of the show in Florida. There’s these little biographical details to some of the design work that Maddie did.
Anything that references these other one-off Puffs events that Matt’s written, that actually found their way into the show proper, that are there for the one person every couple hundred shows who actually will get them. It delights me to no end.
I am also a fan of a truly straightforward dumb joke. So things like Voldy’s swim cap and the tape on his nose still make me laugh. I screwed up a line the other week because I was playing around with my giant googly eye too much. I forgot what I was supposed to say, because I am a child and I had a giant googly eye on my face.
IK: The joke that always gets me is “Lily.” How long did you rehearse that before you could do it with a straight face?
SS: The first time I saw that on the page, I got through the hair flip and staring forward, but then cracked up. I got most of the way through the rehearsal process without being able to do it without laughing. It kind of took having crowds at the PIT for the first time, to realize how little I had to do. By that point in the play, they don’t see me anymore. They see Mr. Rickman. I just get to take my time and really enjoy it. And even when I get to do it at the family friendly shows, where I don’t make any gestures – it’s literally just me standing and slowly saying, “The birds and the bees.” Seeing families be initially like, “Oh, no, are they actually going to do something?” And then laughing in like combined relief for this somewhat awkward thing.
IK: Andy, where’d you get the voices for your characters?
AM: Leanne rambles a lot. So it’s a delicate balance between talking slow enough that you’re understandable, and talking fast enough that it gets the character across: that she’s kind of goofy and absent-minded, and is half talking to herself more than anyone else.
For Ginny’s voice… I love that character in the book so much. And when it came to the movies, she had nothing to do, she was just a love interest. So it’s kind of a commentary on how the character is mistreated in the movie.
IK: Zac, do you have a favorite shirt of Wayne’s?
ZM: I love those so much. Those came about when we moved to New World. Maddie was always thinking about how we can still improve things, and all of a sudden was like, “What if you change shirts every year?”
After the year is when I have a small break. It’s when I would get my drink of water. I was like, “I hate to tell you this, because I’m literally saying that I won’t get my water break anymore. But yeah, sure, I will change shirts every year!” And then she explained how each one related to the year that was happening. I was like, “This is silly and wonderful!”
I love the Wolverine one, the Year Four shirt. It’s probably my favorite, because that year is so meaningful. And the stuff with Cedric is such a big part of the journey of the show and of Wayne. The Year One shirt, though… since it was the one I wore for all of the Elektra run, [it] still has a special place in my heart.
IK: Maddie, which of the props has gone on the biggest journey in Puffs?
MB: There’s some things that never changed, like the Hermione wigs. I would say the Sorting Hat and the ghost collar. When we were reading Matt’s draft, four years ago, we had no idea what those things were going to look like. I was ripping my hair out to figure it out. That’s why people should just throw paint on the wall – if you have no idea what something is, don’t be afraid to fail or get it wrong. Just try something.
And I think that’s also kind of what Puffs is about: don’t be afraid to be brave and take a stab at something. You might not get it right the first time, but that’s totally okay. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try again.
IK: How has it been adapting to new cast members?
AM: Oh, it’s so exciting! I think that’s part of the reason why I’ve stayed on so long: the show keeps changing. Obviously, the show changed when we changed venues. But Ryan [Wesley Stinnett], who just came on as our new Narrator, does it completely different than Harry [Waller] did, and completely different than AJ [Ditty] did. So it’s like a completely different dynamic. It’s funny to see these lines that you listen to every single day, hearing someone come in and say it completely different. You’re like, “Whoa, I never thought of it that way!”
MB: Everyone who’s come in has been amazing. Chrissy [Albanese] is the new Sally Perks. Our dynamic is different from what I had with Jessie [Cannizzaro], and we’re learning new things about the characters. I think the biggest shift tonally has been with each Narrator. AJ, Harry, and Ryan are all so different. That’s just going to change the rhythm and the tone of the whole thing. It’s sad to see older choices go away, but it’s also lovely to see the new things, especially when you’ve been working on a show for four years. You can grow and change and learn new things.
ZM: It’s definitely been different. No one could ever really replace Julie [Ann Earls] and Langston [Belton]. But if anyone could, it was Reggie [Keith Jackson] and Sonia [Mena]. They’re so great. And getting to play with them every night is such a joy.
When each person comes in, there’s a learning period. At first, they really are just focused on getting the words right and getting in the right places. Slowly, you watch everyone get to the comfort level where they bring their own personality to it. It takes a month, usually. They start to get comfortable with the choices they’re making. And now we get to discover the show again. Which is part of the reason that it’s been easy to keep doing it for so long.
SS: Casting Puffs is trying to find people who are idiosyncratic, or might seem normal but then [have] nooks and crannies of eccentricity around the sides. These people come in, and at first are very studious and very good at nailing all of their bits, [then] are slowly letting their inner Puff come out. It’ll happen after two months or something, where they’re finally comfortable enough to [explore]: What’s your forgetful, imperfect, human, frail, funny, nerdy, embarrassing self? And letting those things appear has always been lovely.
Everybody can interpret the parts to their own specificities, like each one of the Narrators has been very different. Sonia is very different as Megan, Reggie’s different than Langston. Alex [Haynes]’s Zach Smith improvisations are a lot more narrative in a way that’s different than Nick [Carrillo]’s miraculous, “Come on, he had to have written that down, and memorized a perfectly phrased and constructed bit!”
The people who are still in the show at this point are all the people who get to interact in the Zach Smith scene.
ZM: I think that’s probably the reason that we’re all still there! Because that legitimately makes it new and different every night.
IK: What’s been your favorite Zach Smith?
ZM: The one that genuinely made my jaw drop to the floor, and for the first time [I was] like, “I don’t know how to react to this.” [It] was when Nick came out with a fake heart and was like, “Hey, I found Cedric’s heart. Do you want it?” My gut just fell through all of me. I probably went pasty white and just didn’t know what to do. I think there was this moment of silence where everyone just couldn’t believe what just happened. Because Nick is brilliant.
SS: I’ve always been a fan of the ones that mask a deep lake of sadness within this sort of bro-y persona. Nick was especially fond of being able to pull out some tragic bit of minutiae from Zach Smith’s childhood or origin, that then would completely skew emotionally how you felt about this person.
ZM: There was the one on Christmas this past year, when Alex was doing Zach Smith. And he just ran through the audience singing a Christmas song. He ran through the house, just singing at the top of his lungs, being the most joyful. And at the end, he said to me, “You made the team.” The one time that’s ever happened.
SS: A lot of the ones where we’re dealing with a circumstance, like when his girlfriend was a bucket.
MB: What is my favorite one? I have to say it’s Nick Carrillo’s Jennifer Bucket. When we had a leak in the roof, and we had to do the rest of the show with a bucket on stage – which, I’m sorry, is insane! But because of that, we did get Jennifer Bucket. Zach Smith’s girlfriend, whose name is Jennifer Bucket, who coincidentally turned herself into a bucket. It’s just a coincidence. That’s gonna stay with me for the rest of my life.
SS: Because we’re in the last days now, there’s a running gag backstage of, “What haven’t we done?” And Alex is methodically going down a list of absolutely ridiculous things that we can try and accomplish by the time the curtain falls on the 18th.
MB: Last night, he came on without his pants. And it took me about fifteen seconds to notice that he didn’t have the bottom half of his costume on. He looked like Tom Cruise.
SS: We ordered a pizza on stage the other night.
AM: Lately, Zach Smith has just been bringing food on stage. Yesterday, Steve ordered a pizza, and it got delivered just before Zach Smith. So he went, “Accio Dominos!” and brought it on stage, and made us all eat a piece of pizza. And then he just rambled about life. The audience loved it, and I got to eat pizza halfway through the show!
MB: He wouldn’t let us leave until we had finished our slice. And it was Domino’s, and I don’t like to eat Domino’s because it upsets my stomach.
AM: I think there’s a delicate balance with Zach Smith. Because if you do it really well, no one knows that it’s improv. [With] the most articulate Zach Smiths, people walk away thinking that’s scripted. So it’s when you do something that’s so random that it couldn’t possibly be planned – like making us eat pizza, and then us not being able to talk because we have pizza in our mouths – it’s something special. Obviously, it wouldn’t work for every show. But it really shows how goofy that part can be, and how different it is.
I’ve gotten bolder with when Leanne talks to Zach Smith.
IK: Yes, I was there when Leanne schooled Zach Smith about anglerfish!
AM: The audience was so impressed that I knew a fact about a fish. Like, “Did you look that up in advance?” And I was like, “No, I just know things!” I hope that Leanne is very similar to me in that I watched a lot of animal documentaries on National Geographic. So I have a lot of knowledge that’s never used in my life, but I have it all. I like to think that Leanne has that, too. She just doesn’t know how to let it out.
IK: How has your portrayal evolved over 3+ years?
AM: A lot of Leanne stuff ended up getting cut, because it is so side quest-y and tangent-y. But it really stuck with me: Detective Leanne [see the script book for this deleted scene!] and her slumber party… There’s a cut scene where she has her own DA, where it’s tea parties with just her and her teddybears. Wayne would walk in and think that it was dumb, and then leave, and then just as he leaves, Leanne levitates all of her teddybears. So there were a lot more hints in the cut stuff that Leanne was actually really good at magic.
And even though those scenes got cut, I tried to work them in so that you secretly figure out that she’s actually good before the battle. It’s always hard playing a dumb character, because you don’t want to just play dumb. It’s the same thing as when you’re playing the bad guys: bad guys don’t think of themselves as a bad guy. And dumb people don’t think like, “Oh, I’m a really dumb person.” You have to find the heart in the character. So I think it’s just been an evolution of that.
MB: I would assume the biggest difference is just confidence. I had ideas for what I wanted to do with it. But there is that little voice in your head: what if this is kind of risky? What if they don’t like it? The past couple of weeks, I’ve been so carefree. Because it’s ending and it’s like, “Woo, we can just go out with a bang!”
ZM: I’m not someone that’s been a leading part often (if ever) in my life. It’s not usually my lot, so it wasn’t something I was very comfortable with. When we started this whole thing, rehearsing at the PIT, Steve [and I] went and got a drink. And he was like, “You have to learn how to be okay, being the lead, and being center of attention.”
I was like, “I don’t know if I’m capable.” I’m used to being here so that this [other] person can shine. From a literal sense, I was like, “Okay, I just have to get used to putting my face front and center, and looking out more so that people can look at it if they so choose.” At the end of the day, the show, even if it is “Wayne’s story,” it’s still so much about all of these people and all of these goofy characters and all of their journey together. Especially about the trio together, and their growth.
SS: For Ernie, all of these people have far more quirks than he does. It’s not my job to outquirk anyone else on stage. He’s just supremely confident. It was latching onto a sort of easygoing confidence, to enjoy anybody else around him who had to be more silly (like J-Finch) or have a strong gag (like Sally and her glasses). Let those people have their fun, and I just try to be a competent human.
Now, I think about [the characters] more as “If this was the canonical character in this sort of situation, what would this thing be?” As opposed to thinking so much about what’s my voice and my intonation. Those things are a lot more internalized. As Matt’s written [19 Years Later and PUF3S], what’s been really fun is that sad sack-y “guy from your hometown who never left and still works at the local video store” aspect of that character.
The arc of the show is [that] we start very silly and slowly become more human over time. And [I’m] getting more competent in that journey for the audience. Even if they’re super raucous and having a great time… after Cedric perishes, they’re still laughing for whatever reason… coming out as the Headmaster and doing the funeral speech, there’s times where I had to hold up my hand to be like, “No, actually. Let’s take a moment. This is a serious thing that we’re dealing with.” It’s fun seeing the audience then go, “Oh, okay. This is starting to be less jokey-jokey-jokey-joke, and now these are people that we are engaging with.”
IK: Is it tricky playing the quiet moments? Or being the straight man among all the shenanigans, bringing the pathos and the emotion?
SS: I think they’re part of the reason why I’ve been able to do it for so long. In the White Room scene, me and Zac get to just talk honestly. We had a show where the sound system went out for the last fifteen minutes. So we [said] to the audience, we’re going to perform [like] this. And the magical thing was – people just went, “Okay, cool,” and then just sort of leaned in. So even for that scene, we got to deal with such ease, because everybody in the audience was already leaning forward and listening with such attention.
As opposed to that being a hard thing of, “You’ve had all this candy with all these jokes, now you’re gonna have to eat your plot vegetables.” If we’ve done our job right, it feels incredibly rewarding. For most of that audience, they’re going to be really surprised by it. The term we use is “Trojan horsing.” There’s this apparatus of jokes and references that first seduces you. But we sneak in this actual story about what it means to go through life and accept [that] not everything is these giant Joseph Campbell hero narratives going through your own existence. Sometimes love and friendship, and the very real impact you have on people in the normal way, is just as important as somehow doing some world-spanning heroics. Or if not just as important, it’s equally valid in an intriguing and lovely way.
ZM: Yes. All these whackadoos are doing their best to cause mayhem and have a grand ol’ time doing it. Sometimes it is definitely a challenge to be the one that’s like, “No, no, let’s bring it back. And let’s push the story forward.”
Doing A White Room scene is by far my favorite, and [the] most fulfilling [part] of doing the show. Steve and I have been friends for a long time. Getting to really act that moment makes the show worthwhile for me in a lot of ways. Because it still feels new and different, even three years in.
IK: Three years in, how do you tap into all that emotion, night after night? Because I always believe your heart’s breaking on that stage. I was surprised you stuck around for the whole run – between Cedric’s death and the White Room, you go through the emotional wringer eight times a week.
ZM: I’ve surprised myself with that, as well. But because the heart behind the show is so real… I’m able to tap into something because it is so easy to think about how unfair it might be. Sometimes having to say the words “I just watched all of my friends die” will be enough to trigger that emotion. Having to imagine that, and at the end of the scene [when he] says that love is the greatest magic there is – I don’t think I’ll ever not be able to feel that in my heart. The meaning behind it is so potent. I just get to be the one that delivers some of it. I feel honored, and obligated to be true to that.
IK: Andy, your death scene is so heartbreaking!
AM: It’s my favorite part of the show, for sure. Because it’s like a double fakeout! Leanne first comes out, and everyone thinks, “Oh, no, she’s gonna die.” And then she gets to be awesome and kick butt and do all these things! All the people that thought she was dumb [during] the whole show are like, “Oh, wait, maybe she’s not.”
The best audiences are the ones where, right at the end, when I’m standing on one leg, and I go, “I did it!” – I see them start to get really excited and start cheering. And then I die. And the air gets knocked out of the room. The audiences get tricked twice.
I’m obsessed [with Firefly and Serenity, I’m the one who included] the Serenity pose with my wands. Firefly was my first venture into nerddom because I am obsessed with Nathan Fillion. There’s a line he has: “A hero is someone who gets other people killed.” So there’s that moment where Wayne decides, “Okay, now I’m officially going to be a hero.” And that’s when everyone starts dying. [Interviewer makes very distressed noise at that thought.] Isn’t it just so sad? And especially to think that these are kids. In the books, it specifically says [that] the group that stayed behind in the biggest numbers, besides Harry and all of them, were the Puffs.
They’re so underrated. But all the clues are there in the books for them just being the best people there… Part of the heartbreaking nature of that final scene is [how in the books], they don’t mention any of the names of these characters that died. But they did, in the highest numbers.
IK: What’s next for you after Puffs?
AM: I don’t know! I’ve been doing this show for so long. I haven’t been able to, like, go out to dinner in a long time. So honestly, I’m just really excited to be able to go see a movie, and have a glass of wine with dinner at a reasonable time. There’s no set plan, just kind of going where the wind takes me.
ZM: I try and audition as much as possible, whenever I can. I’ll probably go back to waiting tables, like I was before/during a lot of the run. I was working as a manager, [well] into the Elektra run. At that point, we were just doing Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and I was working Monday through Friday at the restaurant. I left because it was just too much to not have a day off for six or seven months. I went to another restaurant, I was just a server working a couple shifts. And when we went up to eight shows [a week] in New World Stages, I left that job, so Puffs been the full time job for two years now. At 22, [when] graduating college, the dream is to make a living acting. To have been able to do that for two years straight is literally the dream.
MB: To a degree, possibly more Puffs. The play has been licensed out to a number of theaters. So a couple people have reached out to me and said “Hey, we’d like to license the design from you.” I probably will be helping some other shows around the country, at least with the design aspects. Our set and our props are not going to get thrown away just yet. There is a theater who is interested in purchasing a lot of it to recycle and refurbish and turn it into a brand-spanking-new Puffs.
I’ve been having a lot of existential thoughts about what I want to do. The eight-show-a-week schedule was really wonderful and exciting, but I don’t necessarily need to do that again right away. I need to reset my brain, I’m a little nocturnal at the moment.
I love illustration, I’ve been trying to improve my drawing skills. I’m trying to do some writing, I’ve only dabbled. I just want to make things, things that make people happy. I don’t necessarily care what medium that is done in.
SS: In 2020, we’re looking to do a giant revised version of Kapow-i GoGo for a short run in New York. So we’re in the midst of trying to figure out how we do that in the most cost-effective, impressive, but still homemade and scrappy way. We’ve had this cool experience in Midtown, but all our roots are in downtown off-off-Broadway theatre and new plays. We’re probably launching a Kickstarter thing for that at some point in the next couple weeks.
We’re going to do this thing in an entirely new way. The first time, it was really cool if we did an Avengers circle shot reference. But now that geek culture has won and taken over the world, you can re-explore this while also taking advantage of five years worth of incredible pop cultural insanity that we can reference and invert and implode.
We hope that if people are a fan of other things, it might be another world in which they can come and be seduced by the thing Matt does: come for what seem to be the trappings of a fandom or references to a thing you adored. And then you stay, having fallen in love with this entirely original universe of characters and things.
IK: So what has being a part of Puffs meant to you?
MB: Puffs was the largest scale project that I’ve ever worked on. I don’t necessarily have the goal [of] working on Broadway, I just want to make art. One of my ambitions was to have that experience of n a show that has that eight-show-a-week schedule. Check that off my bucket list!
AM: It’s been amazing. It was my first off-Broadway show. As an actor, you have this idea in your head that you move to the city, you do one thing, and boom! You’re on Broadway. But it was so interesting to be a part of something that started with two readings. The part was written with me in mind, and I got to add to it, and then it turned into this thing… It just grew and grew. And it’s such a perfect example of something I never thought I would do. But it got me to where I am now in my career, and I love it.
SS: The idea of this thing that you can do with your friends, that grows into this wonderful thing that other people then love and enjoy… it’s been really lovely. For me, having this group of people that I really love, and going on this crazy journey over the last couple of years, has been the most rewarding part of the thing. It’s been such a whirlwind. It’s like we blinked from December 2015, and now we’re here, staring around at these people who I spend so much time in the basement with. James [Fouhey], who played Cedric, just got married the other week, and we were all there at his wedding. We actually still adore each other after all that time being in such close quarters. That’s something I’m very, very thankful for.
ZM: Having done the show with these people, for three years of our lives, it’s basically like going to grad school with someone. I’m so grateful for all of the folks that made the show happen, and put their hearts and souls into it for so long. And all of the people that have supported it along the way, all the people who have seen it, and all people who have Tweeted and Instagrammed and bought the movie.
I never expected the show to be what it was. I don’t think any of us did. And I didn’t expect to have such a lasting experience with this group of people and with this fandom. All of this stuff has just been so incredible. Honestly, I didn’t ever think that I would be a part of something like this. So being a part of it has just been such a dream and something I’ll certainly never forget. And probably will be one of the highlights of my career.
IK: Any closing thoughts?
AM: This show’s been great. I love all the people I’ve met, and the people involved in it.
ZM: To have tapped into something so cool, and something that has resonated with people, is really special. It is not lost on me, and I will never forget it.
MB: It’s bittersweet, but it’s also healthy, to move on and make more theatre. So I think it’s sad, but there’s a lot of positive things about it, too. We absolutely could not have done this without the support of all the fans that have come to the show or fans that’ve reached out online. This kind of project just doesn’t happen without fans. So I just sincerely thank everyone for allowing us to share this with you.
SS: Sincerely, thank you. If the article you’d initially written hadn’t happened, I don’t know if the internet would have discovered us in the same sort of way. I don’t know why that particular day was just slow-news-day enough.
In theater, stuff is all written on sand. It’s gone the next day. This sort of thing is rare. This is like lightning striking in your backyard, and suddenly oil sprouting up. It’s been really lovely and overwhelming. Our show has always survived based off of word of mouth – you can’t bottle that and sell that and purchase that. In whatever things that come after this, we hope to honor that very supportive goodwill and love, that all those people were so kind to give us the past four years.
Thanks so much to Andy, Maddie, Steve, and Zac for speaking with us! And expect plenty more Puffs content here at Hypable this week as we bid a tear-soaked farewell to this wonderful show.