Arika Nabutovsky brings whimsy and magic to “Puffs” production



The selection of “Puffs” marks a shift away from the typical Shakespeare production taking place every fall.

New Drama teacher Arika Nabutovsky has no easy task: as the director of the Fall play, she has to bring the sublime world of “Puffs” to the Robert Dubbs auditorium stage. The selection of “Puffs,” the 2015 off-Broadway Harry Potter-inspired parody hit, marks a shift away from the typical Shakespeare play shown each autumn, under former Head of the Drama Department Mary Mastandrea.

Why did you choose not to do a Shakespeare show this year?

My understanding is that it was always a Shakespeare show, that the fall show was very important to the community. It was important to Mary and she devoted an incredible amount of energy and passion to it. As I understand, it was a really beautiful experience. I thought, here I am coming in, but she’s still around. Retirement is bittersweet. Let’s be respectful. We can do Shakespeare again next year, if that is what the community wants.

Why did you decide on “Puffs?”

I heard that it had been a rough couple of years, with COVID-19. I wanted to do something funny and contemporary, if possible. One major option on the list was “She Kills Monsters,” which is very similar to “Puffs.” However, 34 people auditioned for “Puffs,” and “She Kills Monsters” has 12 roles. “Puffs” is massive, so that’s one of the reasons why I wanted to do it.

“Puffs” is based in the Harry Potter universe. Many might conflate the series, “Puffs” and JK Rowling. Is there a connection between the Harry Potter franchise and “Puffs”?

Not only is there no connection between the two, before they were even willing to talk to me, they sent me a “rider,” with all of the rules about how “Puffs” cannot be connected to Harry Potter. I don’t even think you’re allowed to advertise Puffs with the words “Harry” and “Potter” together. It’s really important that we never attempt to suggest that in our advertising. If we mess that up, if we try to entice people into the show by saying that this is in the Harry Potter universe, we could be given a cease and desist letter. It’s a big deal.

Have there been any concerns raised about a potential association with JK Rowling and her transphobia?

There have been concerns that it could be a concern. No one has come to me and said, “I am actually concerned.” That has not occurred, which I’m glad about. I think this is going to be a fun thing for the community and not something that is going to hurt people. We would never endorse [Rowling’s behavior] at all.

Is there anything in general you’d like to communicate to the Brookline community?

All of the actors are hilarious, so come for that. Everybody is so smart and so committed, and I think it’s going to be a sight to see. And I hope that people enjoy it. I hope people have as much fun in the audience as we are going to have during this process.