Reminding all ages the importance of childhood are the student actors of the Tullahoma High School Theatre Department, who will present their fall production, “The Little Prince,” Sept. 21-23 at the THS Auditorium.
According to THS Theatre Arts Instructor Aaron Miller, finding the play came by happenstance.
“We caught it on Netflix and loved it,” he said. “We thought it was such a beautiful story. At the time, we thought if there was a show like that, we could do it. It went to wayside and the year came up and we had already chosen our fall play and our open musical.”
Miller ran across “The Little Prince” again while shopping with his wife.
“We were at McKay’s [used bookstore] in Nashville and Terri found the script for ‘The Little Prince’,” he said. “We then went to the dramatist website and found that they have three versions of this. The one she found was a small cast version. There was also a musical version and a large cast version. We did the large cast version.”
Miller said the play is based on a book of the same name by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.
Born in Lyon, France, in 1900, Saint-Exupéry was pilot whose adventures in flying supplied the inspiration for his literary endeavors, which culminated with the 1943 publication of the classic “The Little Prince.” According to biography.com, Saint-Exupéry disappeared in July 1944 while flying a reconnaissance mission over occupied France during World War II, leading to speculation over the cause of his death that persists to the present day.
Saint-Exupéry’s “Little Prince” tells the story of a world-weary and disenchanted Aviator whose sputtering plane strands him in the Sahara Desert and a mysterious, regal “little man” who appears and asks him to “Please, sir, draw me a sheep.”
During their two weeks together in the desert, the Little Prince tells the Aviator about his adventures through the galaxy, how he met the Lamplighter and the Businessman and the Geographer, and about his strained relationship with a very special flower on his own tiny planet. The Little Prince talks to everyone he meets: a garden of roses, the Snake and a Fox who wishes to be tamed. Through his many conversations, the Little Prince learns, “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly” and “What is essential is invisible to the eye.”
Eventually both the Little Prince and the Aviator must go home, taking with them a new understanding of what is truly important in life.
“The play is based off a book that is beautiful,” Miller said. “The book is very different from the movie and the play is different from both [the book and movie]. But the film and the play use the best parts of the book.”
The THS production will feature 12 students, most of whom are new to the THS stage.
The cast includes Belle Miller, Tucker Johnson, Katelyn Hamilton, Chantelle Bird, Grace Austell, Lauren Rogers, Niya Waller, Jules Orihuelo, Courtney Songer, Elizabeth Coate, Jade Reynolds and Jaiden Dutton.
Miller said while teaching the acting ropes to those who are new can be challenging at times, it can also be a beautiful process.
“It’s a reminder of the growth that can happen,” he said. “When we have a lot of veterans, sometimes they are like, ‘This is old hat.’ So we have to be able to make the veteran realize that it is always a new journey. Now that we have so many new people, it’s nice to be reminded of this is what it is like to start almost at zero. And they are so excited and eager.”
New to the THS stage this year is freshman Tucker Johnson, who recently moved to Tullahoma from Texas.
Tucker plays the role of “Little Prince” said that acting is something he hopes to make into a career.
“Since I was young, I’ve loved it. I want to make it a career for me. I either want to be an actor or a theater teacher,” he said.
For the play, Tucker said he hopes the audience will remember the importance of being a kid.
“I hope that they will see moments in the play where they can remember that they’ve done that before and they can see if from another prospective. I hope they will learn that it’s OK to have fun and be a kid sometimes,” he said.
Other cast members include Katelyn Hamilton, who plays the Rose, and Jules Orihuelo, who plays the Geographer.
Katelyn said she has enjoyed working with her new cast and credits Miller with helping her get into character.
“He wants the job done. He can be scary, but it’s completely necessary,” she said. “He knows it’s in you and he’s trying to get it out. He does some magical stuff. He opens your eyes to help you really understand it all. He’s one of the best directors I’ve ever had, because of how he directs.”
Jules also feels like she has been well-prepared for the role and hopes her fellow classmates will come out to enjoy the play that she feels says a lot to teens her age.
“This role was one of the hardest roles I’ve ever played,” she said. “But Mr. Miller is really good about just breaking it down and getting the story and making it flow. It’s very interesting being at that midpoint between adulthood and childhood because this show is very much the difference between the two. I think it’s a good show for teenagers to see, because it has really good messages for them to keep in mind going to adulthood such as to not let go completely of your childhood.”
One of only two junior cast members in Belle Miller, a THS stage veteran. Belle plays the Aviator, and said the play has really spoken to her.
“There’s a line where the Aviator says, ‘I can’t see sheep through walls of boxes anymore’,” she said. “That line is really is a pivotal thing for me. That’s almost what I’ve started to go through. I see little kids with their imagination and I can remember doing that, but I can’t catch on to that quite as well. Being in theater, I am able to still connect to that but in a level of playfulness. But the line was really important to me as this is what I was going though.”
If you go
Miller said the upcoming production is for suitable all ages and helps the audience to remember the importance of just being a kid.
“I hope it reminds grown-ups when children have more immediate access that we adults had to wait a long time to get that kids are still kids and they need to play and imagine and dream and so do we,” he said. “There is a double meaning to the show where what happens to somebody who has to go get answers about love and make discoveries on their own without anyone to guide them and how do they teach an adult to be a kid again and how does adult teach a kid to be an adult without losing that childhood.”
Showtimes are 7 p.m. for Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. on Sunday. Tickets are $10 for adults and $8 for students. Tickets can be purchased at the door or by going online to improvateers.com.
Kali Bradford can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.