How John Tiffany and Jack Thorne Got J.K. Rowling’s Blessing to Craft Harry Potter Onstage

Interview   How John Tiffany and Jack Thorne Got J.K. Rowling’s Blessing to Craft Harry Potter Onstage
 
With ten Tony nominations, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child expands the wizarding world with finesse, heart, and—of course—magic.
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John Tiffany, J.K. Rowling, and Jack Thorne Joseph Marzullo/WENN

There is an element of magic in the story of how Harry Potter came to the stage. When producers Sonia Friedman and Colin Callender first introduced director John Tiffany to author J. K. Rowling, the two had a distinct feeling of déjà vu. As it turned out, they had met many years earlier in a coffee shop in Edinburgh. Rowling, then an unknown writer, had been using a corner of the café to pen The Philosopher’s Stone; Tiffany, a recent med school dropout, was in the process of launching his theatre career. They weren’t friends, but they would wave hello, as strangers who pass each other on occasion have a tendency to do.

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Noma Dumezweni, Susan Heyward, Paul Thornley, Olivia Bond, Ben Wheelwright, Jamie Parker, Poppy Miller, and Sam Clemmett Manuel Harlan

Now Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts One and Two has settled in at Broadway’s Lyric Theatre and earned ten Tony nominations following a record-breaking world premiere in the West End. Directed by 2018 Tony nominee Tiffany and with movement by 2018 Tony nominee Steven Hoggett, the acclaimed production is a burst of fantasy and theatricality. The story itself picks up 19 years after the last Harry Potter book left off: Harry’s son Albus is about to begin his first day at Hogwarts, and what follows is an epic tale of adventure, mystery, and coming of age. It’s also the final chapter.

Read: HOW HARRY POTTER’S JAMIE PARKER BECAME ‘THE BOY WHO LIVED’

The two-part play, penned by playwright Jack Thorne, is based on an original new story by Rowling, Thorne, and Tiffany, who began collaborating on the project after being reintroduced in 2014. Though Thorne and Tiffany had worked together before (on the acclaimed productions Let the Right One In and Hope in the U.K.), the task of continuing—and concluding—the Harry Potter series was an intimidating one.

Thorne, a self-described Potter fan, understood the pressure of picking up where one of his favorite authors had left off. He decided to write dialogue almost straight away. “I wanted Jo [Rowling] to be OK with the idea of other people writing words for these characters,” says the playwright. “A story document is one thing, but when you see somebody else writing Harry Potter on a page and what words he should say—that felt very daunting to me, and I worried it would be daunting to her.”

But in the end, Harry’s journey from the page to the stage was an altogether seamless one. “It never concerned her in the slightest,” says Thorne. “We weren’t really prepared for the level of generosity and trust that Jo [Rowling] gave us,” agrees Tiffany. “She had absolute faith in Jack from the beginning… that, and the historical emotional connection with me—it fit well.” Call it serendipity, call it fate, or just call it magic.

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