Courtesy of Theatre Battery

“How would a transgender student experience Hogwarts?” 

Logan Ellis DRA ’20 and his friends asked themselves this question when assembling a Lego Harry Potter set during quarantine. Their ensuing conversation resulted in a stop-motion animation web series called “LEGO Harry Potter and the Transgender Witch” from Theatre Battery — a theater company Ellis founded in his hometown of Kent, Washington. At its core, the Lego-inspired series is fun and playful while drawing on themes of betrayal and alienation.

“[The ‘Harry Potter’ universe] is a world that has so frequently been used in fan fiction circles,” Ellis said. “There’s a really interesting cross-section in the way that people during the pandemic are reverting to childhood comforts and then also this ongoing sense of betrayal and alienation that is taking place in the LGBTQ fandom.”

The web series follows a young transgender witch named Quincy Blueburger after she receives her letter to Hogwarts. Quincy, who is originally ecstatic about her status as a witch, soon finds that Hogwarts is not as welcoming for trans people.

In many ways, the web series is a way for the team to grapple with fans’ reactions to when author J.K. Rowling was accused of making anti-trans comments last year.

Ellis said that he hopes that this series will be a way to invite people “to imagine, a little bit deeper, the realities of [the world of ‘Harry Potter’].” He hopes the series will raise questions about LGBTQ experiences in major institutions with conservative histories.

Quincy is voiced by Donato Fatuesi, an activist in UTOPIA Washington, a grassroots organization that aims to create safe and welcome spaces in Washington for queer Pacific Islanders. Fatuesi said that even after the project’s completion, she hopes Quincy Blueburger will continue to live on as a new unofficial character in “Harry Potter.”

For writer and voice actor Mia Fowler ’20, the series helped her grapple with questions about inclusivity in “Harry Potter.” When Fowler was in elementary school, she said her school librarian refused to believe that Fowler, as a Black student, was able to read the “Harry Potter” books. In response, Fowler’s grandmother purchased the series for her. Owing to this memory, the “Harry Potter” world has remained special for Fowler. Her grandmother now watches and enjoys the web series.

Fowler said that the fan fiction parody community has always been open to rewriting beloved childhood stories by including previously excluded groups.

The web series follows the original “Harry Potter” plot line, but with Quincy as the lead character. She starts Hogwarts’ first queer affinity group, called “Magical Queers,” and faces many of the same perils as the original characters — Harry Potter, Ginny Weasley, Hermione Granger and others — did.

Yet for Quincy, the other main characters of Rowling’s story are bullies rather than the heroes that they are in the original series. According to Ellis, the betrayal viewers should feel upon seeing their favorite characters mistreat Quincy emulates some LGBTQ individuals’ lived experiences.

Fatuesi agreed, saying that Quincy’s experiences are sometimes part of Fatuesi’s day-to-day life. Fatuesi reflected on one of these moments, when she lobbied for a bill to disallow insurance companies from denying coverage for trans people. This bill has now passed and will soon travel to the governor’s desk.

Fatuesi said the series allows her to pursue theater both outside of and in tandem with the activist work she typically does.

She added that the series incited conversations about transgender youth with a close friend. Since her friend is a mother, Fatuesi said that the series has allowed her to better understand the experiences that transgender students face at school.

For some viewers, such as Fowler’s nonbinary sibling, the series has welcomed individuals previously excluded from the “Harry Potter” universe. But Ellis said that for others, the mix between the childhood aesthetic of Legos and the discussion of gender and identity has sparked hateful comments about transgender youth.

Ellis said that with the project, the creators are most passionate about “having fun and learning things along the way.”

The series has released five episodes, with more on the way.

Maia Decker | maia.decker@yale.edu