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'Sally Cotter' cast still wild about Harry Potter series

| Tuesday, May 15, 2018, 9:00 p.m.
Gabby Yost (Sally Cotter) and Skylynn Ellison (as Harmonica) rehearse a scene in New Kensington Civic Theatre's production of 'Sally Cotter and Censored Stone.'
Matt Mlynarski
Gabby Yost (Sally Cotter) and Skylynn Ellison (as Harmonica) rehearse a scene in New Kensington Civic Theatre's production of 'Sally Cotter and Censored Stone.'

The Harry Potter series, Madisson Heinl reminds, is one that is universal.

“Everyone knows about it, obsesses over it, and loves it, so why not joke about it too?” she reasons. “This show is one big inside joke that Harry Potter fans will all be in on.”

The Natrona Heights resident is talking about the New Kensington Civic Theatre's all-ages production, “Sally Cotter and the Censored Stone,” which will be presented in four shows May 17-20 at Penn State New Kensington's Forum Theatre. She has the role of the “Censor.”

“The Censor makes sure that all of the characters are acting legally, within the boundaries of parody, and putting on a show that will be appealing to child audiences,” Heinl explains. ”I enjoy this role because it's sarcastic, funny, and highlights some of the things we've always thought about the Harry Potter series, but were never really brave enough to say out loud.”

The fantasy mixed with comedy takes place in the mind of the character of Sally Cotter, portrayed by Gabrielle Yost of Springdale Township, a junior at Springdale High School.

“Sally falls asleep reading a book about a boy wizard and wakes up to a magical world of wizardry. Her character is confused in this unknown world, and brings along some humor as she embarks on her adventures,” Yost says. “I personally connect with Sally through her wit and her love of books. I appreciate the continuous comedy, especially the Harry Potter puns throughout the play.”

The production was chosen to bring some younger actors into the theater and encourage new audience members as well, says Beth Minda, who with Matthew Mlynarski, is co-directing.

“I really like the humor of the show and I think the audience will as well. There is a lot of goofy, obvious humor but there are some subtler jokes that you kind of have to listen for as well,” she says.

“Anyone who knows and loves Harry Potter will enjoy all of the parody aspects, but even if you don't know the series very well you can understand the jokes and what is going on. Kids will get the slapstick jokes for sure, but there are other subtler jokes aimed at the adults.”

It is primarily an ensemble show. “The cast is a fun group of people of all ages from different parts of Pittsburgh who love Harry Potter,” she says.

Minda's approach has been more collaborative due to the nature of the show. “The author leaves it open for jokes and silliness. If the cast has ideas on something to add in, we try it and see if it works,” she explains. “We are having a lot of fun putting this together.”

Kiski High freshman Zach Roden, a self-proclaimed “big fan” of Harry Potter, didn't have to be asked twice to participate.

“I appreciate that the story stays true to the themes of Harry Potter but entertains as well,” he says.

He plays Dave, a parody of the Harry's best friend Ron.

“Dave is very playful and funny. I think that being Dave suits me very well, not only because I share red hair with him, but because I am a bit of a jokester and like to entertain people,” he says. “I'm so glad to be a part of the show. I came into it not knowing anyone but they are all wonderful people and I can't wait to see it come to life!”

Rex Rutkoski is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.

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