Actors at a Certain School of Magic Overcome Uncanny Challenges in the Hilarious Spring Play, “Puffs”

A Potomac math teacher is transformed into a theater wizard–and sits down with us for a conversation.


Courtesy of Pawprints

In the performance, from left to right, Karina Satoskar ’25, Graeme Evans ‘24, Tucker Robbins ‘25, Catherine Carroll ‘22, Ethan Norton ‘22, Emily Raman ‘22, Ginger Landers ‘25, Ella Adamec ‘23, and Morgan Hubbard ‘25.

Anaahita Kaashyap, Staff Writer

On May 14th, the Upper School performed Matt Cox’s Puffs, or Seven Increasingly Eventful Years at a Certain School of Magic and Magic, a comedic re-imagining of what life might have been like for ordinary students at a certain famous magical school. 

VPAC seniors performed the main roles in the play: Catherine Carroll as Wayne Hopkins, Ethan Norton as Oliver Rivers, Andrea Villafuerte as Megan Jones (later recast as Claire Coleman due to the Covid contretemps), and Emily Raman as Cedric and A Certain Potions Teacher. Among the big surprises was the play’s faculty director, Mr. Carl Long. Guys and Dolls theater teacher Mrs. Stephanie Miller, who directed Guys and Dolls in the winter, was on maternity leave. So who appeared as if by magic? None other than Upper School math teacher: Mr. Carl Long. In our interview, I asked him about his past, including how he developed his passion for theater.

How long have you been at Potomac as a math teacher? 

Three years, now. 

When did your passion for theater and directing begin?

My passion for theater began in middle school. My first memory of theater was actually a third or fourth-grade class play. I was a bug and we were marching for bug’s rights in Washington. And [I started] directing probably toward the end of college.

You mentioned that you participated in a lot of productions when you were younger. Do you still continue to be active in theater outside Potomac?

Yes, until recently having kids put a damper on that part of my life. I’ve been active in theater for the better part of my life, probably three decades. I even co-ran a professional theater for a little while, and have acted in places around town, including the Kennedy Center, the Folger Theater, and the Constellation Theater.

So how did you get the opportunity to actually be able to direct Puffs this year? I know it’s something that you’ve been wanting to do for a really long time. So how does that feel?

Yeah, so Mr. Bergmann (the theater director before Mrs.  Miller) retired kind of at the last minute last summer and you know, there was a lot that was up in the air and with Mrs. Miller on maternity leave and all that stuff like they needed someone to do this. So I said I’d be very interested.

And how did you choose Puffs for the spring semester?

When I did, I probably read about 50 scripts or at least parts of 50 scripts or so trying to pick one. Part of it was I knew that I had a large cast of over 20 people and that limited what plays were out there. I wanted to do a comedy, because I think we needed a comedy right now. And because, you know, Faustus was very serious, so we wanted something to balance out the season. The students said that they wanted something that was modern, and I think it was originally performed in 2017. 

I know that Covid turned out to be a huge challenge. I have a lot of friends who are in theater and they mentioned that you were online for quite a bit. So how was that like directing through a screen?

I couldn’t see much. We had a laptop in the middle of the theater, with the camera pointing forward. It was like I could see bodies but I couldn’t really see faces. I could hardly hear [because of] the computer microphone. Yeah, it wasn’t great.

And then going through the book or going through like the template thing before the actual play I can notice that Andrea wasn’t there to play Megan. So like, how was that done? 

A lot of last-minute cast changes because of Covid as well, which was really stressful. Andrea was a really important part of the story and a really important part of the cast. So trying to figure out what to do, because we already had between my Covid case, and there’s another Covid case on the cast, we didn’t really have our tech week. There wasn’t enough time to put everything together and make everything. So like we really just had Saturday to do it. Claire stepped up and did Andrea’s part and then Emily and Pippa stepped up and did Claire’s parts. So like really just kind of all hands on deck everyone coming together and putting more on their plates.

Yeah, but watching on Saturday was amazing. Like, the jokes were hilarious and good and the audience was really loving it. So what was your favorite joke in the play?

When Harry says “de nada” to the French girl.

So if you did have the opportunity, would you be directing future plays and musicals? 

I definitely wouldn’t mind doing that again.

Note: This interview was lightly edited for length and clarity.