By Sabina Mollot
Harry Potter fans looking to meet that special someone will have the opportunity to do so on Monday, December 12, when Union Square bookstore the Strand will have a Yule ball/Harry Potter-themed speed dating session.
The event was the idea of the store’s communications director Whitney Hu, a Harry Potter fan and a fan of “Puffs,” a satire show inspired by the book and film franchise that originated at the People’s Improv Theater but has since hit Off-Broadway.
Hu said she believes the Harry Potter angle, and the fact that guests are encouraged to come in costume, will help take the edge off what’s normally a very serious event; and she’d know. The Strand has already hosted several speed dating events that while popular (the last one sold out) are still nerve-racking for many attendees.
For this reason, Hu approached the people behind “Puffs” to help facilitate the event. Two cast members will be in character while facilitating a mingling session. While having a session for mingling might seem over-organized, Hu explained this as well. “We’ve had open mingling before. No one mingles.”
She got the inspiration after first seeing the “Puffs” show when it was playing at the PIT. “I thought it was hysterical,” said Hu. “I was so happy to see that they made it to Off-Broadway.”
Besides, she also knew there was a built-in audience for an event like this, since a Harry Potter party for the midnight release of the book Cursed Child in July drew 1,000 guests of all-ages, mostly millennials.
“Millennials were the key demographic, but we saw a lot of children,” said Hu. “I think we’re getting to the point where a lot of millennials are having children and we saw people from six to 60.”
Because the store has four floors, all the guests were able to fit, while participating in activities on each floor.
“It was July so it was a little warm, but people were excited,” Hu said.
The speed dating event is aimed at guests 21 to 40, though, with the age restriction mainly there because alcohol will be served. The $20 admission ticket will include two drinks. Additionally, there will also be pastries served since the bookstore is partnering with Maison Kaiser.
Initially Hu had toyed with approaching Puffs for some other concept, but ultimately settled on Harry Potter.
“We were thinking of doing ugly Christmas sweaters, but I think things like that are overdone, overplayed,” she said. “But in the beginning (of speed dating), people feel really awkward; as much as people show up, it’s serious. While we have the over-arching thing of all being book lovers, we think the Harry Potter (theme) will make it even easier. Harry Potter’s going to do well no matter what.”
Along with coming in costume, Hu recommended that guests, “Come prepared with information about what house you’re in and to ask nerdy questions.”
In other words, muggles need not apply.
At the July event, the depth of fans’ enthusiasm for the theme was pretty clear with costumes including Moaning Myrtle, the ghost who haunts a toilet at Hogwarts and the trolley lady also made an appearance. Hu served as the sorting hat.
The upcoming event will be geared towards setting up men with women, though prior speed dating events have been for men meeting men and women meeting women. Attendance is normally capped at 60 people so reserving a space is recommended as it also helps to make sure there’s not an imbalanced number of male and female guests.
The event runs from 7-9 p.m. To RSVP, visit the website.