‘Harry Potter And The Cursed Child’ Rejects Live Owls, J. K. Rowling Rejects Bigots

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, a play that focuses on J. K. Rowling’s young wizard Harry Potter as an adult, has announced that it will not be using live owls on stage. The New York Times has reported that a live owl flew across the stage during one of the previews. However, the show’s producers have decided — to the delight of British animal rights activists and doubtless the relief of the actors — not to use live owls during the play.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child will not officially open at London’s Palace Theatre until July 30. The play is currently in previews. In a statement issued by the producers on June 9, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child“is currently in its preview stage, with the process designed to allow the creative team time to rehearse changes or explore specific scenes further before the play’s official opening.”

“As part of this process, earlier this week the decision was made not to feature live owls in any aspect of the production moving forward.”

Owls are a major part of the Harry Potter universe, but live owls will not be used on stage for the play "Harry Potter and the Cursed Child."
[Image via Warner Bros.]
The Telegraph reported that a barn owl named Sprocket flew above the audience to deliver a letter (as Harry Potter fans know, owls deliver the mail in the Wizarding World). Sprocket then flew about the auditorium rather than returning to her handlers and took some time to recapture.

The British branch of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) released a statement that they were relieved and “delighted” that the play would not be using live owls in the performance.

“We contacted the play’s director and production company … to explain that wild animals, such as owls, are not actors and should never be forced to perform. And we were delighted when they got back to us to say that they’ve decided not to use live owls in any future performances. This is a huge relief for all Harry Potter fans who care about animals. Owls are shy, sensitive and utterly unsuited to being put on display in a hot, noisy theatre, night after night. Treating them like props goes against every message of respect and kindness expressed in J. K. Rowling’s much-loved books.”

In addition to the moral aspect of treating owls like props, there are issues of sanitation, the birds’ safety, and the difficulty of training owls. In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Arthur Weasley explained to Harry that the Ministry of Magic used enchanted paper airplanes for interdepartmental memos rather than owls because of the mess.

“We used to use owls, but the mess was unbelievable… droppings all over the desks.”

Also, most falconers agree that owls are far more difficult to train than hawks. Despite the myth of the wise old owl, many falconers and birdkeepers consider owls downright stupid.

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In addition to the owl problem, the play has had some complaints over the fact an African actress, Noma Dumezweni, has been cast as Hermione Granger. J. K. Rowling, known as the Queen of Twitter to her fans, has also been quick to scold those who have complained that Hermione Granger and her daughter, Rose Granger-Weasley, are played by Black actresses.

In an interview with The Observer, J. K. Rowling referred to those who objected to Noma Dumezweni and Cherrelle Skeete being cast as Hermione and Rose in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child as “a bunch of racists.”

“I had a bunch of racists telling me that because Hermione… must be a white woman, which I have a great deal of difficulty with. But I decided not to get too agitated about it and simply state quite firmly that Hermione can be a black woman with my absolute blessing and enthusiasm…Noma was chosen because she was the best actress for the job.”

J. K. Rowling has a reputation for speaking out in favor of tolerance and against discrimination. She has publicly scolded both the Westboro Baptist Church and Donald Trump in her tweets; although, she defended Trump’s freedom of speech in a speech at the PEN America Literary Gala.

“I find almost everything that Mr. Trump says objectionable. I consider him offensive and bigoted. But he has my full support to come to my country and be offensive and bigoted there. His freedom to speak protects my freedom to call him a bigot. His freedom guarantees mine.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child was written by Jack Thorne, based on a story by Thorne, Rowling, and the play’s director, John Tiffany. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child will open officially on July 30, without owls and with a Black Hermione.

[Photo by Jack Taylor/Getty Images]

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