The move came after an incident during the opening night of previews in London on Tuesday, when, according to the BBC, "an owl escaped into the auditorium" after it "had failed to return to its handler after making a brief flight during a scene." Following that mishap, the production decided to nix live birds altogether, instituting the change in time for the debut of part two of the play on Thursday.
Signs appeared outside the theater notifying patrons, "During the performance you will see some birds in cages but please note these birds are not real -- just very realistic pieces from our brilliant props department! There are no real birds featured in the production."
Producers also released a statement noting the nixing of the live owls:
"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 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.
"This was of utmost importance to the production."
Representatives from PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) praised the move, releasing a statement of its own:
"Peta commends the production team for coming to its senses and recognising that treating owls like props goes against every message of respect and kindness that JK Rowling's wonderful books taught us," director Mimi Bekhechi said.
"Harry Potter can now join the ranks of innovative stage productions like War Horse, The Lion King and Running Wild which prove that animals need not be exploited for the theatre - and that the possibilities of prop design are limited only by our own creativity."
Despite the lack of live foul, fans clearly were charmed by "Cursed Child," raving about the play on social media (but being careful to follow J.K. Rowling's instructions to #keepthesecrets). The sold-out production officially opens on July 30, and runs through May 2017.
[via: BBC News]