Is "The Little Prince" for kids?
Many of our patrons are asking if our upcoming stage adaptation of “The Little Prince” is being presented as a children’s play. It is certainly appropriate for kids (probably 8 or older). However, we believe the original novella, “Le Petit Prince” by renowned French author and pioneering aviator, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, has far reaching appeal that, while entertaining for children, explores complicated story elements that are more readily understood by more mature thinkers.
So... should you bring your kids to see the show?
We sat down with veteran MCP director, Michelle Moore (“Jesus Chris Superstar”, “Rabbit Hole”), to get a better handle on the question.
MCP: Good morning! We are excited to see how well “The Little Prince” is coming together. Thanks for taking a moment to help us answer the question: Is the Little Prince a children’s play?
MOORE: Yes! ... and no... or not really. It is a rather tough question to answer. On the surface it will definitely appeal to kids. It’s an awesome adventure with floating sand dunes, paper sunsets, giggling roses, and even a flying chair made of stars. But the primary themes of the story are clearly intended for adult contemplation.
MCP: What are those themes?
MOORE: Oh man... there are so many different ideas condensed into what appears to be a very simple story. It’s about a pilot who crash lands in the Sahara Desert and wakes to find himself, inexplicably, in the company of an inquisitive little prince, who we quickly learn is a traveler of the galaxies. The prince needs to discover the purpose of his own existence and the pilot needs to find a way to get home. Though they come from very different places and have very different objectives, they learn to become friends.
MCP: ... already not a simple answer...
MOORE: Yeah... it’s not an easy thing to put your finger on and everyone gets something different out of it. I guess the universal themes would be childhood vs. adulthood, the value of relationships, What is truth?, man’s inhumanity to man, imagination, loneliness, What happens when we die?...
MCP: That’s heady stuff! So... it’s probably really not meant for kids then?
MOORE: To the contrary! Because it’s a fantastical tale about a little boy on an epic journey to find answers for how to protect his prized possession, his single, perfect Rose, it will absolutely be enjoyed by kids! Our Prince is played by Spencer Holom, who is a very watchable and very relatable young man. Our show also features an ensemble cast, comprised of several kids, ranging from elementary to high school, who have each brought their talents and youthful imaginations to the staging of our show. It’s fast moving, funny, and relatively short. Older kids at least... I’d say 8 and up... will have a great time!
MCP: Speaking of kids, what can you tell us about the pre-show one-act play, “WILD”?
MOORE: Yeah! Thanks for asking! The members of The ACT (Mud Creek’s outreach program for teens in theatre) have written and produced a short one-act interpretation of Sendak’s, Where the Wild Things Are. It is entirely teen created, produced, and directed and will feature most of our ensemble players. They have really been working hard. I got a glimpse of the nearly finished product this week and I’m super impressed!
It’s just about 12 or 15 minutes long, but they have captured the essence of the story well and it will be very enjoyable to anyone who remembers the book. That’s another one of those stories that you can argue is a deeply philosophical work, cleverly disguised as children’s literature.
MCP: Let’s get back to the question of theme. What do you think “The Little Prince” is actually about?
MOORE: I think the most important point that Saint Exupéry intends to make is that, as adults, we need to continue to exercise our imagination. Faith in the existence of what we cannot see begins to fall away from us at a very early age. As we lose that faith, that innocence, we also lose an important part of our humility and humanity. The prince meets and tames a Fox who imparts in him the primary message of the story: “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly. What is essential is invisible to the eye.” With that also comes confidence to take chances, willingness to trust ourselves and those around us, the ability to find joy in the simple things, an understanding that our desire to own what is physical is detrimental to our spirit. And then there are even deeper, more difficult questions asked in the story: Why is humanity so destructive? What happens when we die? Is there any point at all to anything?
MCP: Sounds a bit absurdist... or existentialist?
MOORE: Definitely! I think you could make a case for either. However, because the book was written around 1942, it predates the published works of Jean-Paul Sarte, the hero of existentialists, and Albert Camus, the father of absurdism in theatre. One could argue that these essential 20th century, French thinkers must have been influenced by The Little Prince. After all, the book was an immediate success when published in the U.S. during the Nazi occupation of France. It was certainly seen as a commentary on the German aggressions in Europe at the time. Both Satre and Camus would have known of Saint-Exupéry for his reputation as a famous French aviation pioneer and would have been keenly aware of the post-humous publishing of the novella, especially as it came so shortly after the writer's dramatic disappearance, while flying a spy plane for the resistance over the coast of Marseille.
MCP: Wow! You’ve done your homework!
MOORE: Probably too much! I love research. But the audience doesn’t have to know about any of this to enjoy the story. Not at all! In fact, it is probably better to just to enjoy the play for the simple story that unfolds on stage. Allow yourself to be a child for a time. ...Then go have a martini with your brainiest friends and talk about what it all means.
MCP: In that case, I guess we just leave it as... It’s a play for everyone?
MOORE: Yep! That works!
MCP: Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions!
MOORE: Thank you! I’m so excited to be directing again at the Mud Creek Barn Theatre! The pandemic has been particularly hard hitting for those of us who make a hobby of creating art in community theatre. As we emerge from shutdowns and intensive restrictions, it seems appropriate to bring a hopeful story like “The Little Prince” to the stage.