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Reflections on afO’s production of The Little Prince

by Lauren Nichols, Artistic Director

Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s lovely novella, The Little Prince, is a story which repays repeated visits and grows with the reader over time. I first read it in high school, many, many years ago, and was moved by the story from my initial reading onward. I laughed over the charming illustrations, loved the growing relationship between the aviator and the prince, and shed a tear at the end every time. When I found the published adaptation we are presenting, I knew it would be ideal as an “all-ages” offering for our Main Stage. It seemed just the kind of simple, tender-comical story that would appeal to a wide audience.

Now however as I listen and watch our production, ably directed by Tricia Clouse, unfold each night at the ArtsLab, I hear the story in a fresh way, and I appreciate its message much more deeply. Especially moving to me is the picture of friendship as “taming.” The Fox explains to the Prince that if he is not tamed, he is “no different than a thousand other foxes.” But if the Prince tames him, then he will be “unique in all the world” and they will need each other. 

How true this is, I think as I consider my own life experience. Walking into any new place, there is a sea of faces, all anonymous, nondescript, unknown. Someone introduces herself. We talk. And over time, we begin to know one another, our history, our likes and dislikes. And one day we realize we are friends; we have been tamed! This is delightful, but now there is a risk of heartache if that friendship is subject to long distance or death. “One runs the risk of weeping when one allows oneself to be tamed,” says the fox. As one ages, these risks become all too common.

I call to mind the admonitions from the Bible that a friend loves at all times, that two are better than one, and that there is a friend who is closer than a brother. The Little Prince creatively portrays both the joys and struggles of friendship.

It also pokes gentle fun at a number of foibles of human nature, including its selfishness, its shortsighted desire to acquire “things” and its unthinking devotion to rules. One word which keeps cropping up over and over is “important.”  Different characters have different ideas about what this means, but to the Prince, what is important is “invisible to the eye,” and must be known with the heart.  

While the children delighted in the antics of the fox, the creative costuming of the rose and the desert flower, and the projected animations of the Aviator’s sketches, the adults in the audience left pondering on another level entirely.  This is a production to savor. Allow it to “tame” you, so that you can understand it with your heart.

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