Summer is always the height of reboot season. We watch with alternating cynicism and delight as creatives dredge up our and our parents' childhood favorites and rework, refresh, recast them. Some projects claim a beloved narrative for the people left out of it the first go-around (Ghostbusters), some aim to make animated magic corporeal (Pete's Dragon), and some provide buttons to stories we have long loved and thought were over (Finding Dory).
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts I & II undoubtedly falls in the last category. Over the years, series author J.K. Rowling has suggested to various interviewers that Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows' perhaps saccharine epilogue (wherein a middle-aged Harry, Ginny, Ron, and Hermione waved their respective children off to Hogwarts) officially closed the book on the Potter saga. But the 2011 emergence and resulting success of Pottermore – a multimedia website which has, among other features, the official, Rowling-approved Sorting Hat quiz – gave her a means by which to expand the Potter universe inch by inch, in short articles expanding on character backstories and more fully illustrating various locations from the books. Now, nine years after the release of the last novel in her internationally beloved book series, Rowling has collaborated with director John Tiffany and playwright/screenwriter Jack Thorne on a two-part stage play currently in previews at the Palace Theatre in London. The plays' subject matter has remained obscured – due to Rowling's personal entreaty to fans to "keep the secrets" of the plot so that future audiences can experience everything fresh – but the release description makes it clear that it is a direct continuation of Harry's story.
The entirety of that content will become public knowledge with the July 31 publication of the Cursed Child, Parts I & II scripts. For the occasion, BookPeople is bringing back an event that proved formative for so many Austin kids: the Harry Potter midnight release party. The biggest independent bookstore in Texas was hardly the only bookseller to organize events around each Rowling release (national retailers like Barnes & Noble made sure readers from sea to shining sea had a place to celebrate as they waited to break open their copies of the latest installment), but the sheer scale and ingenuity of BookPeople's annual gala made the competition irrelevant. In Boyhood, director Richard Linklater offered glimpses of the 2005 party. Its magic and community goodwill doubled or tripled the excitement of young readers who already spent their Julys in agonizing wait for their next literary adventure.
For the years that they lasted, BookPeople's Harry Potter release parties were like a second Christmas Eve. The generosity and warmth that seeps into the hearts of everyone, those special outfits that we save all year to don on this occasion, the ever-so-slightly indecent pleasure of waiting – the twinkling, bustling parking lot of 603 N. Lamar promised them all. Every year, first-timers would find themselves immediately welcomed into the fold by a beaming, laughing horde of costumed attendees and staff. You could spend your wait quaffing butterbeer in a custom Diagon Alley setup, listening to one of many Harry Potter-themed bands in the performance queue, adventuring in a haybale Triwizard Maze, and having Austin's answer to Sibyll Trelawney give you a tarot card reading. No matter how you passed the time until midnight, you could cherish that buzz of anticipation in a crowd of people with the same joy and curiosity as you.
For all my fellow members of the Potter generation, now in the process of graduating or hustling in our first big jobs or introducing these beloved books to our own children: BookPeople is bringing the gang back together for one last hurrah. Diagon Alley will flourish once again and butterbeer, courtesy of Maine Root sodas, will be flowing (along with more Muggle-ish treats from Austin's Pizza and Amy's Ice Creams). The staff has promised a costume contest with the winner receiving a Nimbus 2000, a House Cup Tournament (that will include wand dueling and Quidditch!), Harry Potter trivia with favorite characters from the series on-site, tarot readings, and a live magic show. A new addition will be the scribes of Typewriter Rodeo, a team of old-school versifiers who will compose original poems on the subject of your Hogwarts House right before your eyes. Talk about wizardry.
Questions remain: Will attendance skew older now that the titular character is deep-set in middle age? Artsier, since this may be theatre artists' best chance to see the publication release of a stage play receive the deserved enthusiasm? One thing is certain: The folks who come will be a bunch of jolly revelers, patient line-waiters, and speedy readers who will be able to give you the scoop on The Cursed Child after they tear through their copy in the wee small hours of the morning.
The release party for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts I & II will be held Sat., July 30, 10pm, at BookPeople, 603 N. Lamar. For more information and vouchers, visit www.bookpeople.com.
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