Annie, Voldemort, & Orphanages: Were Sirius and Regulus Adopted Blacks?

A Guest Post from Randall Voigt inspired by watching Annie and reflecting on the curious relationships of the Dumbledores and Blacks in Rowling’s Wizarding World novels, screenplays, and play script: Enjoy!

Why This, Why Now?

My wife and I recently saw the Broadway musical, “Annie,” after having seen it decades ago.  Years after that first event, reading J.K. Rowling’s Half-Blood Prince, Ch. 13, about the London orphanage where Tom Riddle grew up, reminded me of Annie’s orphanage in the musical.  Seeing the play again, and hearing a church sermon about assumptions and expectations (using the film, “The Sixth Sense” as an example), got me thinking (“a dangerous pastime” – “I know”).

Recent Information (From the Past) Concerning Memory

In Rowling’s first Fantastic Beasts screenplay, Sc. 120, Jacob Kowalski is supposed to be Obliviated.  But in Crimes of Grindelwald, Sc. 35, Jacob reminds Newt Scamander that the Obliviating potion “only erases bad memories.”  So, Jacob remembers many of the events of Beasts.  In Secrets of Dumbledore, Sc. 46, Grindelwald extracts Yusuf Kama’s memory of his sister, Leta Lestrange, because Yusuf holds Grindelwald responsible for Leta’s death.  But, Yusuf seems to signal to Queenie Goldstein that he still has some memory of Leta, and that he will act against Grindelwald.  Yusuf does so, later in Secrets.  Maybe this is important in “Harry Potter” – about which, more in a minute.

The London Orphanage

Rowling describes the orphanage matron, Mrs. Cole, as “sharp” but “no novice to gin drinking.”  Mrs. Cole seems to be something like Miss Hannigan, who is in charge of the orphanage where Annie lives at the start of the musical.  Mrs. Cole may be kinder:  Rowling writes that she is “harassed-looking” and “more anxious than unkind” (Prince, Ch. 6).  Mrs. Cole certainly seems to be a nicer person than Mary Lou Barebone at her Second Salem Church (Beasts, Sc. 30). 

Mrs. Cole tells Dumbledore that she thinks Tom Riddle hung “Billy Stubbs’s rabbit,” and that “Amy Benson and Dennis Bishop were never quite right” after Tom led them into a seaside cave.  For a while now, I have wondered if the orphan Amy Benson might be the same person as Amelia Bones, present as Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement at Harry Potter’s Ministry hearing (Phoenix, Ch. 7) and later killed, about which Minister Fudge says, “We think [Voldemort] may have murdered her in person …. (Prince, Ch. 1).”  

But, isn’t the London institution a Muggle orphanage?  Maybe some things point to it’s not being so, or not entirely so.  [Read more…]

New ‘Cursed Child’ Condensed Version: Will the New Play’s Script Be Published?

As discussed here earlier this month, there is a new Harry Potter and the Cursed Child appearing on stages worldwide. The original four act play is only now performed in London and Hamburg and the much condensed new play has significant changes, most notably, the relationship of Scorpius and Albus has shifted from friendship to young gay love. From The Guardian review of the shorter version:

Some characters are dropped entirely and go unnoticed; others are reduced to the point that you wonder why they are included at all. (Albus’s older brother James is forgettable now; their sister Lily is entirely gone.) One major character, who is secretly a villain and was included in much of the original show, is now barely on stage at all, making their big reveal feel a little wet.

And yet, among all the cuts, one scene has noticeably been added: in the second half, Albus takes Harry aside to inform his father that he will have to accept Scorpius as “the most important person in my life”, a declaration made with weighted urgency and one that his father benignly accepts. The original show was criticised for “queerbaiting” Albus and Scorpius, but director John Tiffany – who is gay – then said it “would not [have] been appropriate” to make the nature of their relationship any clearer.

Six years on, it is clear someone felt it was now appropriate. The sub is gone from the subtext; Scorpius’s female love interest in the original is now a platonic friend. Whether giving Harry a son who seems ever-so-slightly queer has anything to do with Rowling’s now public views on trans people, aired since the play debuted six years ago, is unknown and unlikely ever to be confirmed by anyone. Some wouldn’t even spot the change. What is inarguable is that someone thought the change was important.

Brady Dalton Richards, the queer actor playing Scorpius in the Broadway short-version, has said he feels it is his onerous responsibility to give this new representation of the story believability: “As a queer person, a gender non-conforming person, to be a visible voice, gives the gift of ‘anyone can be a part of this world’ — and that’s a responsibility, y’know, to be this open and visible force for inclusion and representation in presenting this newer version of the story.” I preferred “queer-baiting,” frankly, with its hetero-normative gestures at the end to what is obviously fan-servicing and capitulation to the Zeitgeist.

But I have only read the 2016 ‘Special Rehearsal Edition Script’ and never seen either version of the play (it hasn’t traveled to Oklahoma City, for one thing). Rather than make judgments about the play and the new version specifically, as I have done in admittedly careless fashion, a play which the Australian producer of the Melbourne Cursed Child claims that Rowling co-operated with Tiffany and Thorpe in revising and condensing during the UK Covid hysteria and lockdowns (see film clip above), when will serious readers of Rowling’s work, to include a play she didn’t write or re-write but had some part in crafting, have a chance to own a printed copy of the new play?

The play will almost certainly never have a traveling company or be performed by high school students for their Spring Drama credits. It’s much too expensive a production, one requiring remodeling of the theaters in which it is performed costing millions of dollars. That being said, the revised version of the play, having displaced the original in four of its six global venues, is the one most likely to be the accepted or most performed version. I hope Bloomsbury decides sooner or later that a second edition of Cursed Child with the updates and revisions is in order, maybe even before Christmas…


Cursed Child Bailing Out BroadwayCon? Distancing New Version from Rowling?

It looks like the cast and producers leading the Broadway production of ‘Harry Potter and the Cursed Child’ is going to make an appearance at Mischief Management’s 8-10 July edition of BroadwayCon. This is news to note on several levels. BroadwayCon is the first Mischief Management gathering since the pandemic closed their popular LeakyCon and Con of Thrones as well. Is this last minute agreement for the most popular Broadway show in recent history to make a stage interview panel a la ComicCon with movie ensembles a life-saver to Melissa Anelli’s company? They are certainly more likely to sell out of Day Passes for the opening night of BroadwayCon now that the ‘Cursed Child’ cast will be there for a meet-and-greet.

The friends who sent me this news were more than a little surprised by the news, however. They know that LeakyCon has anathematized Rowling as a transphobe and bigot — so why would the Sonia Friedman Production decision makers reach out to help or just agree to participate in a venue whose Mischief Management owners libel Rowling left and right? They sent me this link to a Good Morning America interview on 19 May with the actors playing Scorpius and Albus in which Brady Dalton Richards explains why he is so excited about the new ‘Cursed Child’ one-part version that is opened in May (cf. 1:20 in this clip): [Read more…]

Paint and Memory, or Should That Be Pixels? Chatting with the Dead Via Magic and Technology.

One of the more fascinating, and mysterious, constructs in the Harry Potter series is the moving, talking painting, and what that means for the possibility of communicating with loved ones after death.

On the one hand, Cursed Child reminds us that the portraits are “paint and memory” …  something far different and far less than actually speaking with the portrait subject. This view seems consistent with one that Rowling herself opined in 2004. 

Q: All the paintings we have seen at Hogwarts are of dead people. They seem to be living through their portraits. How is this so? If there was a painting of Harry’s parents, would he be able to obtain advice from them?

JKR: That is a very good question. They are all of dead people; they are not as fully realised as ghosts, as you have probably noticed. The place where you see them really talk is in Dumbledore’s office, primarily; the idea is that the previous headmasters and headmistresses leave behind a faint imprint of themselves. They leave their aura, almost, in the office and they can give some counsel to the present occupant, but it is not like being a ghost. They repeat catchphrases, almost. The portrait of Sirius’ mother is not a very 3D personality; she is not very fully realised. She repeats catchphrases that she had when she was alive. If Harry had a portrait of his parents it would not help him a great deal. If he could meet them as ghosts, that would be a much more meaningful interaction, but as Nick explained at the end of Phoenix—I am straying into dangerous territory, but I think you probably know what he explained—there are some people who would not come back as ghosts because they are unafraid, or less afraid, of death.

source from Accio quote, Edinburgh Book Festival, 2004

On the other hand, there are certainly times when the portraits seem to do far more than repeat catchphrases. Dumbledore’s painting, for instance, was able to generate original ideas for Order members in the fight against Voldemort. For instance, he seems to have come up with the idea of the Seven Potters, which, according to Mad-Eye, was a response to the Ministry outlawing apparition from Privet Drive. He suggested to Snape that he implant the idea of the plan by confounding Mundungus Fletcher. Later, he advises Snape to give Harry the Sword of Gryffindor, reminding him that the sword must be recovered under conditions of bravery.  This seems to be more original thinking than a “faint imprint” could impart.

I was reminded of this curiosity after reading this story about a grief-stricken man who created an AI version of his deceased girlfriend, with whom he could converse by text chat. It is a fascinating read, and delves into both the potential for healing, and the dangers, of clinging to a created “imprint” as a way of coping with loss.  Reading the article made me think of Dumbledore’s advice to Harry regarding the Mirror of Erised:

“However, this mirror will give us neither knowledge or truth. Men have wasted away before it, entranced by what they have seen, or been driven mad, not knowing if what it shows is real or even possible…It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live, remember that. “

I hope our Hogpro readers will look into the AI story, and comment here on the similarities to magical paintings. 

Giving Tuesday: Sponsor a Hogwarts Professor for the Global Autism Project.

Dear Readers:

I recently had the privilege of being accepted as a Skill Corps Volunteer with the Global Autism Project for July 2020. I will be part of a team traveling to Ecuador, to work in a center for autistic children and provide training for teachers and parents.  My university’s Spencer Center for Civic and Global Engagement is providing a seed grant for the project, but I need to raise 80% of the funds to make this trip a reality.

I am hoping readers who have enjoyed my Harry Potter, Hunger Games, Divergent and Cormoran Strike postings over the years will consider a donation to this cause on this Giving Tuesday. Skill Corps teams travel to places where schools and services for special needs children are scarce, with the long-term goal of establishing self-sufficient local centers.

No gift is too small.  The funding site is here for those who would like to donate.

Many thanks as we enter the holiday season.