Not long ago, 20 South Sound children received letters of acceptance from Cascadia School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
On Monday, those magically gifted kids began their training. They got wands. They discovered their patronuses. And they are competing in the Tri-Wizard Tournament.
However, unlike Hogwarts, the alma matter of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter, Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley, Cascadia doesn’t operate year round — at least not yet. For now, it’s part of a weeklong day camp offered at Olympia Family Theater.
Inspired by the 20th anniversary of the publication of the first Harry Potter book, the Olympia kid wizards began their adventures when a Sorting Hat (in this case a hat full of slips of paper) assigned each one to a house — but not the houses Potter aficionados are familiar with. At Cascadia, the houses are Sasquatch, Spirit Bear, Tree Octopus or Ogopogo (a lake monster reported to live in Okanagan Lake in British Columbia).
(The school motto also reflects the difference in venue: “Amplectere natos pulvia” translates to “embrace the rain.”)
“I’ve been into Harry Potter since the books were available in the U.S.,” said Amy Shephard, the actress-choreographer who’s teaching the camp. “I started reading them in seventh grade. I reread them every single year.”
While they have their adventures and work on winning the house cup, the campers also are playing theater games.
“Playing the games prepares them for the process of performance,” Shephard said. “They’re all going to be presented as if they’re part of a wizarding class — practicing spells, dueling, defense against the dark arts.”
At week’s end, they’ll put on a play — based on Rowling’s story abut Ilvermorny, a North American wizarding school — for their families.
The allure of Harry Potter was a draw for campers. The camp, officially called “Hogwarts Library,” was the first of the OFT summer camps to fill, said Olympia Family Theater artistic director Jen Ryle.
“We sped through the books like wildfire,” said Selah Hirsch, 9, who’ll start third grade in the fall at Olympia Waldorf School.
Selah and her dad, Evan Hirsch, are halfway through book 7, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.”
“Selah has been gracious enough to allow me to do it all in a British accent, and it’s been fun,” Hirsch said.
Timmo Heminway, 10, who will be a fifth-grader at Olympia’s Garfield Elementary, also likes Hogwarts stories. He, too, was nearly finished with “Deathly Hallows” last week — and imagined himself playing Hagrid.
“It would be really funny if I were Hagrid, because I’m really tiny,” he said. “I could be Dumbledore. In most of the plays I’ve been in, I’ve been wise men or women.”
But he didn’t sign up for camp to explore Hogwarts. Rather, he goes to every theater camp he can.
“I think this is going to be my 13th,” he said. “They’re really fun.”
“I don’t think he knew it was a Hogwarts camp until he got the letter.” said Rip Heminway, Timmo’s dad.
Camps at Olympia Family Theater
What: In addition to its theatrical productions, Olympia’s children’s theater offers camps throughout the summer and on school breaks, plus after-school workshops.
When: Summer full- and half-day camps, and afternoon improv lessons for teens, continue through Sept. 1.
Where: Olympia Family Theater, 612 Fourth Ave. E, Olympia
More information: 360-570-1638, olyft.org
The four houses of Cascadia
The Hogwarts Library camp is limited to ages 7-13, but plenty of director Amy Shephard’s friends have told her they want to attend Cascadia School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, too. Luckily, anyone can take the online quiz and be sorted.
Perhaps you’ve already discovered your Hogwarts house through J.K. Rowling’s Pottermore (pottermore.com) or one of many other online quizzes — or even your Ilvermorny house, also available on Pottermore.
Now you can find your Cascadia house through an online test Shephard created. Check it out at https://www.playbuzz.com/amysab11/which-cascadia-house-do-you-belong-in.
The houses, named for mythical Northwest creatures, are inspired by the Hogwarts houses but have their own characters.
• Spirit Bear: House Spirit Bear has students who are loyal, kind and philosophical. It’s the most compassionate house.
• Ogopogo: House Ogopogo students pride themselves on being quick witted and ambitious. They take pride in academic success and are said to have the sharpest tongues and best senses of humor.
• Sasquatch: House Sasquatch students tend to be on the reserved side, but their inner — and sometimes outer strength — is deep. They are brave and aren't afraid to do what’s right.
• Tree Octopus: House Tree Octopus students think outside of the box. They aren’t afraid to try something new. They can be a bit stubborn and defensive when threatened, but they can get along with everyone.