Whenever I start work on a play, I ask myself a few questions. The first being: Why is this play
important? And I think The Tragedy of Tom Riddle provided one of the best answers. It was a very
personal one too, because of how deeply I care for that book series and the characters who taught me
how powerful I could be. It was also during the process of aiding in editing and creating my packet of
research for the actors that I realized how incredible this rehearsal and performance process would be.
Why is this play important?
Because nerds rock, okay?!
Harry Potter was and is the story of a generation. Our generation. It was a story that showed how not only good could win over evil, but how the youth of the world could lead and change the future. How even the ones that might not appear to be heroes to the outside world could become the heroes when the time came. How a love can save the lives of many even though it was only, initially and willfully, given for just one.
The story of Tom is so unique. The original seven books remind us constantly that both Harry James Potter and Tom Marvolo Riddle have many similar attributes. It is one of the most interesting dichotomies in recent story telling. Tom is the story of ambition and how it can drive a man to the darkest places imaginable. It is a story of chaos, anger, violence and in the end, bitter failure. Tom's tragic flaw is that he is not able to love (romantically or otherwise). While this seemingly helps him rise to power, as you know, it's ultimately his downfall. There is no question that Tom’s stance on the “impure blood” of Muggle-born or “half-blood” magic folk is that of a bigot. It is also clear that a person’s capacity to love is humanity’s biggest weakness to Tom. What’s not so obvious are the ways in which these ideas are saturated with toxic masculinity. Much like how contemporary male world leaders wield their guns and steel as symbols of strength, grit, and domination Tom asserts his power by rejecting the tenderer, “feminine” notion of love and favors violence, destruction, and [purity/similarity/etc.] instead. It is interesting to think how if Tom, a ruthless, Spartan-like tyrant, had been a bit more like Harry, a courageous warrior who values love and friendship more than glory and might, how differently his story would have gone.
Let’s not forget that Harry offers Tom a moment to repent and show remorse for his actions in their final battle of The Deathly Hallows. Tom refuses it. He refuses so much that ultimately makes him human. He denies what family he has remaining, he denies acceptance as just a normal wizard, he denies love, he denies himself a life lived well in the place of a life cut short due to hubris. Keep in mind it is established canon that wizards can (unassisted by other magical means, thus excluding persons such as Nicholas Flamel) live to be upwards to 115 (Albus Dumbledore) and Newt Scamander is currently still alive, born 1897, and is an incredible 121 years old! And yet Tom dies in his early 70’s. If he had just lived his life as a normal wizard without all the killing and splitting of his soul… he could have easily doubled
his life… But that is the price of ambition, is it not?
Harry Potter is not just the story of a boy who is destined for greatness. Nor is it the story of a tyrant who fails in his quest for purity and dominance. It is the story of love conquering evil, bravery overcoming darkness, and the youth learning they are capable of so much more than they ever dreamed. It is a beacon of hope for many of us who still find it hard to find the light in our daily lives. JK and her characters always remind us that there is a home for us at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and
Wizardry when we need comfort and sanctuary. It is a safe place for those of us who see the magic in all things. And in a world as tumultuous as ours, a little nostalgic relief can be the encouragement we need to continue moving forward despite the obstacles.
I open at the close.
- Katherine Quin