By Luke Baynes
“All grown-ups were once children – although few of them remember it,” reads Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s dedication for his 1943 novella “The Little Prince.”
Lest we forget Saint-Exupéry’s maxim, the young adults of the Champlain Valley Union High School Co-Curricular Theatre Program are staging three productions of “The Little Prince” March 16-18 at the school auditorium.
“The story of ‘The Little Prince’ is universal and brings out the inner child in all of us,” said CVU sophomore Zoey LaChance, who was chosen by CVU theatre program director Candy Padula to play the eponymous leading role.
Padula said that while she was open to a male or female playing the prince, it was LaChance who took the initiative to crop her hair for the role.
“That’s dedication, for a teenage girl to cut all her hair off,” Padula said. “I think it definitely shows how much she’s excited to be playing this character.”
LaChance said she loves playing a boy because of the acting challenge it represents.
“It’s a challenge to play a character that is completely different from me, because I needed to do a lot of research and be very confident in my character,” said LaChance.
The plot of “The Little Prince” is deceptively simple. An aviator – semi-autobiographically patterned after ace pilot Saint-Exupéry – crashes his plane in the Sahara desert. There he meets a little prince from a distant asteroid who visits six planets in flashback – learning lessons about human nature on each – before landing on Earth and meeting a tragic end. Although ostensibly a children’s story, the book’s theme of the corruptibility of the adult world is best distilled in advice given to the little prince by a fox: “One sees clearly only with the heart. Anything essential is invisible to the eyes.”
Padula noted that the CVU production, adapted from a play that Rick Cummins and John Scoullar based on the novella, is “almost the entire book.” She said the biggest change she made was having a five-person ensemble share narration duties with the aviator, played by Bill McSalis.
“I always like to get as many kids involved in the show as possible,” Padula said.
In all, there are 16 cast members and 20 crew members – including stage manager Kate Neil, an exchange student from New Zealand.
“The high school I came from … the theater program wasn’t very well established,” Neil remarked. “When I decided to come to America, I really wanted to be involved with (theater) because I knew it was pretty much my only chance I was going to get.”
Neil said that set and prop construction – including a 5-foot-long airplane – is ongoing, although she’s confident they’ll be ready by opening night.
LaChance commented that while the weeks leading up to show have been stressful, the hard work seems to paying off.
“Having to balance school, rehearsal and everyday life is a struggle, but having such a supportive cast and crew that are really passionate about the show helps relieve the stress,” LaChance said. “We hope that the community will come out and support us. We have spent a lot of time and energy making this show the best it can be.”
The CVU Co-Curricular Theatre Program will present three performances of “The Little Prince”: Friday, March 16 at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, March 17 at 7:30 p.m.; and Sunday, March 18 at 2 p.m. Tickets are available in advance by completing the mail-in order form at cvuhs.org. Ticket prices are $7 for general admission and $5 for students, children, faculty and staff.
Editor’s note: The quote from Saint-Exupéry’s dedication is taken from Katherine Woods’ 1943 English-language translation from the original French. All other quotes from “The Little Prince” are taken from Richard Howard’s 2000 translation.