LONDON — No owls were — or will be — harmed in the making of the new "Harry Potter" play, producers of the production, "Harry Potter and the Cursed Child," assured the public this week, after reports emerged that an owl had escaped backstage at the show's first preview Tuesday.
Audience members who attended the first performance of the highly anticipated stage follow-up to the book series were urged to keep their experiences under wraps, and were handed pins encouraging them to "#KeepTheSecrets" of the plot.
But some details inevitably emerged in the press and on social media.
"At one point what appeared to be a live owl flew across the stage," Sarah Lyall of The New York Times noted.
It was indeed a live owl, Janine Shalom, a publicist for the production, confirmed in an email Friday.
Owls figure heavily in the "Harry Potter" books; Harry's pet bird, Hedwig, is a stalwart sidekick before being hit by a curse and killed in the final installment.
But in doing what birds do best Tuesday night, the owl has apparently written itself out of future stagings of the play.
A statement sent by Shalom noted: "The production of 'Harry Potter and the Cursed Child' is currently in its preview stage with the process designed to allow the creative team time to rehearse changes or explore specific scenes further before the play's official opening."
"As part of this process earlier this week the decision was made not to feature live owls in any aspect of the production moving forward," the statement continued.
The statement sought to reassure any audience members who might have worried about the bird's welfare:
"The owls that were associated with the production were expertly cared for by a team of certified trainers and an on-site specialist veterinary surgeon (Steve Smith, MRCVS) who ensured the owls' welfare and enrichment needs were safeguarded at all times."
Live animals are no strangers to the stage, though their use remains somewhat controversial. An adaptation of "King Lear" staged in London last summer starred one actor and nine sheep. And a Dutch staging of the opera "De Materie" at the Park Avenue Armory in New York this spring featured 100 sheep, who had a custom-built soundproof dressing room backstage.