7.50pm – Conclusion to this live-blog – the dining hall is still full of people; the generous spirit that Harry Potter imbues in everyone has not allowed anyone to be turned away. I’m glad it is over, as being a nosy and corrupt reporter is tiring work, especially when doing double duty to be a character and a student in a blogging class. But all in all, I had a marvelous place, and I’m sure the 200+ people who attended did too.
6.30pm – More and more people are still entering, and many of them are in quite good costumes. Sure, a bathrobe is not really a Hogwarts school robe, but it is the effort that counts. The food is great, the decorations are wonderful, and the entertainment (the cast, including yours truly) has really made this event.
6.25pm – I’m getting a little tired of everyone saying “no comment” to me – but it is a testament that I am a believable Rita Skeeter, and they know that I will twist whatever I say. In any case, their short answers give me more time to write down the entries for this blog.
6.20pm – Draco Malfoy is strutting around terrifying people, Cornelius Fudge (resplendent with his signature lime green bowler hat) is proseletyzing on the politics of Muggle-Wizard relationships. Professor Trelawney is blundering around in a dazed and possibly drunken manner, offering to predict people’s deaths for them. Just another day at Hogwarts.
6.15pm – Lorna, the wonderful director of Risley Dining, is arranging trays of butterbeer to be served to people still in the line, to give them a little taste of the great things they will finally eat when they make it to dinner. She is awesomely dressed up as Professor McGonagall.
6.10pm – I try to get the couples to dish on their relationships for the entertainment of the crowd, and as luck would have it, the people playing Hermione and Ron were actually a couple, and the people playing Cho Chang and Cedric Diggory likewise. Harry and Ginny were a bit of a problem, as Harry was played by a girl, but nonetheless I got some juicy faux-gossip to malignly report.
6.05pm – There are so many parents that I am encountering among the ranks of the visitors, along with their prospective children, and the visiting pre-frosh. This event was really well placed to target all these visitors, and even though Rita Skeeter twisted all their words in her reportage, I can honestly say they thought it was an amazing and impressive event.
6.00pm – This event should theoretically be halfway over now, but there is no way the people waiting in line will be denied. Luckily, we managed to get a presentation of various owls by the Cornell Raptor program (http://www.ansci.cornell.edu/raptor/index.html), and even if they don’t deliver our mail, they are wonderfully beautiful and fabulously diverting for the people in line.
5.55pm – I’m going around followed by my diligent press photographer, who luckily is taking real pictures, not magical ones, of all the characters and the visitors and the decorations. My bright green quill unfortunately has no magical properties of its own, but I write as furiously and as untruthfully as possible. Rita Skeeter is nothing if not a paragon of yellow journalism.
5.50pm – Professor Dumbledore, played by (real-life) Professor Tom Hill, says a few words in a tremendous voice to the feasting hall. These words are “nitwit, blubber, oddment, tweak!” He has obviously brushed up on the details of the first book!
5.45pm – Time for the first showing of Potter Puppet Pals! Six cast members, myself included, are going up to the balcony overlooking the Great Hall. The sounds of the hit video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tx1XIm6q4r4) are projected across the hall, and the hand-made puppets of Harry, Ron, Hermione, Snape, Dumbledore, and Voldemort perform their little skit. Uproarious applause from below.
5.40pm –In the next room, a deadly skit just started in the depths of the “Ministry of Magic” – Bellatrix Lestrange dueling with Sirius Black. The audience held their breath as he fell into the death curtain – separating the common room from the kitchen – but he was hopelessly dead. And his reenactment of this skit a half-hour later doesn’t change that fact.
5.35pm – Mr. Ollivander is also purveying his fine assortment of hand-made wands (made in Risley’s own woodshop) to some people waiting in line, and everyone seems happy that they will get something concrete (and possibly magical?) to take home with them.
5.30pm – Gilderoy Lockhart is passing out signed photographs to his “adoring” public, so some of the people attending are going to get a little keepsake straight from the hands of a Hogwarts professor.
5.25pm – As I am dressed up as Rita Skeeter, the Daily Prophet’s most admired reporter, I have the pleasure of wandering through the line interrogating the Muggles about what they think of the event. I don’t get very many positive answers, but of course my character is rather a bitch in the books.
5.20pm – the line is now out the door! Not just out of the dining hall, but through three rooms, and the length of the main hall, and out the main door. This is an amazing turnout for such an event, considering it cost $350 and the sweat and tears of the cast members who made the decorations and then put them all up.
5.15pm – Most of the cast members are done eating, so we can go and perform our main function at this event: mingle with the guests and the people waiting in the absurdly long line to make sure they are amused and entertained, and are willing to wait through the line.
5.10pm – Our special Harry Potter food (i.e. British fare) is surprisingly good. No haggis or blood pudding or spotted dick to scare anyone away, but fish and chips, shepherd’s pie, and roast beef. The crowning glory is the Butterbeer – the magical drink described as warm and golden and happiness-inducing. Even without the magic recipe, it is sweet, milky, and caramelly.
5.05pm – the Christchurch refectory in Oxford (http://image22.webshots.com/23/5/71/15/219557115zwAfRX_fs.jpg) has nothing on us! The four house tables are decorated in their theme colors, and we have even made a humble attempt at engineering floating candles in the ceiling. Even if we don’t have magic, it still works.
5.00pm – the “cast members,” the organizers and volunteers for this event who are dressed up as official characters (I’m Rita Skeeter) get to go in to eat first, and the dining hall is resplendent, fashioned after the descriptions of the Great Hall in the HP books.
4.55pm – the dining hall has not even opened yet and there is already a line of fifty or more people, meandering through our decorated rooms. It looks like it will be quite a turn-out, and everyone who is already here is genuinely impressed and amused at the decorations and our hard work.
4.30pm, Friday April 17th. Short preamble for this live-blog – At this moment, Risley Hall of Cornell University is still preparing and setting up Harry Potter Night. Soon, the residential hall will become Hogwarts, and surrounding locations in the Wizarding world.