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7 Harry Potter novels in 70 minutes: ‘Potted Potter’ comes to Anchorage

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Arts and culture

This article was originally written for the Anchorage Daily News.

In 2005, fans of the Harry Potter series lined up outside of a bookstore in London for the midnight release of J.K. Rowling’s sixth installment, “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince,” and Jefferson Turner and Daniel Clarkson decided to perform a street show of the first five Harry Potter books for the crowd.

They never thought it would result in sold-out shows around the world — let alone an opportunity to meet the famous author herself.

Turner and Clarkson are the masterminds behind “Potted Potter,” dubbed “The Unauthorized Harry Experience.” The parody crams all seven novels into a 70-minute show. Next week, “Potted Potter” will be back in Alaska for five performances at Discovery Theatre. “Potted Potter” has toured the United Kingdom, Australia, South Africa and Dubai. In 2012, it was nominated for an Oliver Award for Best Entertainment and Family Show.

In 2005, fans of the Harry Potter series lined up outside of a bookstore in London for the midnight release of J.K. Rowling’s sixth installment, “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince,” and Jefferson Turner and Daniel Clarkson decided to perform a street show of the first five Harry Potter books for the crowd.

They never thought it would result in sold-out shows around the world — let alone an opportunity to meet the famous author herself. Turner and Clarkson are the masterminds behind “Potted Potter,” dubbed “The Unauthorized Harry Experience.” The parody crams all seven novels into a 70-minute show. Next week, “Potted Potter” will be back in Alaska for five performances at Discovery Theatre.

“Potted Potter” has toured the United Kingdom, Australia, South Africa and Dubai. In 2012, it was nominated for an Oliver Award for Best Entertainment and Family Show.

The entire Harry Potter series amounts to more than 4,000 pages of material. While condensing that may seem daunting, Turner and Clarkson found a straightforward way to decide what storylines would be incorporated into “Potted Potter.”

Before their two-man show in London, Clarkson was already a Potterhead — a Hufflepuff to be specific. However, Turner had never read the books, so he sped through the first five in a week.“Dan is a proud and true Hufflepuff. That is one of those things — we didn’t need a test,” said Turner. “I kind of missed the boat when it came out. I did the awful thing — it was popular before I was into it, so I kind of resented it a bit.”Clarkson told Turner what he remembered from the books and Turner made notes of what he thought were major plot points. The majority of information that overlapped made its way into the production.

“It very quickly became me playing Harry, and the manic energy of Dan running around me playing everyone else,” said Turner. “We got the main (characters) in, we got the ones that we like and make us laugh.”

In 2006, Turner and Clarkson developed their material into an hour in length and took it to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

“Every year since then, it’s just gotten a bit bigger,” said Turner. “Each time we thought, ‘Oh, well this is it, this is as good as this show can ever be’ — and then we finally found ourselves off-Broadway in 2012, and it’s just continued since.”

While the men no longer consistently act in “Potted Potter” — Joseph Maudsley and James Percy have since replaced them on the road — Turner said the success of the two-person formula led the writers to create more productions with a similar idea in mind, like “Potted Pirates,” “Potted Panto” and their most recent, “Potted Sherlock,” which began touring in 2014.

The popularity of “Potted Potter” eventually led the writers to meet the author who made it all possible. When Clarkson and Turner met J.K. Rowling at a charity event, their producer introduced them as Dan and Jeff, to which she responded, “Oh, the ‘Potted Potter’ boys.”

“Our lives were complete,” said Turner. “She knew who we were and we were like, ‘Well, we’re done. We can hang up our wands now.’ It doesn’t get much better than this.”

Potted Potter
When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday-Friday, 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday, March 7-10
Where: Discovery Theatre in Anchorage
Tickets: $27-$40.25 at centertix.com

The Author

Samantha is majoring in journalism and political science at the University of Alaska Anchorage. She is the former executive editor of The Northern Light, UAA's student-run newspaper and has previously interned at Alaska Dispatch News and Alaska Public Media. Samantha loves pad thai, london fogs and a good baseball tee.

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