When a theater troupe creates a parody of Harry Potter's world, it should be done with a lot of humor and with an equal amount of heart, according to one individual.

Staging a story that pokes gentle fun at something or someone that is iconic should be done in a balancing-act style that seamlessly merges originality and a nod to the past, said Sherry Hester, stage manager for the Fort Smith Little Theatre's upcoming production, "Mythical Creatures and How to Approach Them."

Written by Travis Greisler and directed by Fort Smith Little Theatre member Eric Wells, "Mythical Creatures" is an entertaining off-season offering that will be staged at 7:30 p.m. April 19-21 at the Fort Smith Little Theatre, 401 N. Sixth St., she said.

"It's fantastic, fun and magical," Hester said of the hour-long play. "I told the cast last night — bless their hearts — that they aren't allowed to watch anymore Harry Potter because this is a parody; it's not Harry Potter.

"We are focused on this world that we created for our audience," Hester added. "It's going to be a blast."

The story presents an up-close look at two students named Peter Wisenchair (Brandon Bolin) and Harmony Ginger (Jamie Lambdin), who are enrolled in a magic school and embark on a journey that will allow them to study interesting, unique creatures. It's when the duo encounters a sassy unicorn, a sad griffin and other beings where the adventure becomes more unpredictable, Hester said.

"The extra live magic of live theater is, the actors are standing on the stage and the audience is reacting," she said. "You can see the magic grows a little more with each audience."

Brandon Bolin said he is thriving on portraying his character, who he described as a "mash-up" of Harry Potter and Potter's close friend, Ron.

"My character starts out where he doesn't care why he's there at the school and he doesn't care about his own appearance — a typical teen-aged boy," Bolin said. "By the end of the story, though, he has fun getting to learn about all of these creatures.

"And he's made friends with his professor (Nathan Stockemer), with some of the creatures and with one of the other students," he added. "This character goes from not caring to being interested in the things he's studying."

Rehearsals started for "Mythical Creatures and How to Approach Them" a little over a month ago and had to be done in once-a week sessions due to the normal scheduling of "regular-season" shows at the Fort Smith Little Theatre, Bolin said.

"We will have a week or maybe two weeks to be full-time in the theater for rehearsals," he said.

The rehearsal schedule has presented a "fun challenge" both to the cast and the crew members, Bolin said.

"It hasn't been too challenging because this play is a little bit shorter than most of the other plays I've done, so we are able to run through it once or twice, even in the course of one rehearsal," he said.

Other cast members include Adeena Thomas, Jennifer Roller, Valerie Valentine, Shannon Stoddard, Meghan Partain, Victoria Walden, Eric Krigbaum, Jordan Garton, Summer Robinson and Garrett Young. The crew features producer Rikkee Black; props manager Suzanne Thomas; lighting designers Rebekah and Stephen Martin; tech members Brenden and Orville Chick; and stage hands Kelsey Flippo and Jennifer Chick.

"It's been impressive to see everyone come together and know that we have to make the best use of the time we have," Bolin said. "I've been impressed with the amount that we have been able to take care of lately."