I can’t actually remember a time when The Little Prince was not a part of my life. I don’t remember the first time I heard it, read it, or when I saw the film with Gene Wilder as Fox and Bob Fosse as Snake. The story has always been a backdrop to my life. It was one of my mother’s favorites. I was certain she knew the answer to the Aviator’s question, that she could speak the language of the stars. When I was 16, I left for Africa on a Rotary Exchange. She told me to always look at the moon. She would always be looking at it too, so in this way, no matter where we were, we would always together.
When Laura invited me to co-direct this production, my mother was very ill and I knew I would be doing this story after her passing, in the sacred place of grief and gratitude. Laura, too, was in an underworld journey with the discovery of her son’s brain tumor. We were both living in the unknown with our best beloveds, and yet we were each able to turn to this masterpiece for solace. Exupèry says, “It is such a strange place, the land of tears.” And he was right. We began really feeling the paradoxes of life and death, love and loss, hope and renewal. We were somehow no longer in the world of either/or, but in the exciting realm of both/and.
In exploring the deeper mysteries of the duality of this story, one has to know how it came to be written. Antoine de St. Exupéry was a pilot at a time when the airplane was a new technology. His iconic writing about flying was considered vital to the development of the aero-technology. Exupéry was no stranger to sorrow. His father died before he was four, and so did his younger brother. Like the pilot in the story, Exupéry actually crashed in the Sahara desert with his navigator, André Prévot, on December 30th, 1935. They both survived, by nothing short of grace—they didn’t have enough food and water to last one person one day in such heat. They had no idea where they crashed, and were rapidly losing any chance of survival. Both men suffered from severe dehydration during this time and began to hallucinate quite viscerally. It was from these desert hallucinations that the story of The Little Prince was born. Some suggest that the boy who visited Exupéry when he was so close to Death, was the ghost of his little brother, who would not leave his side until he was rescued.
Throughout the show, you may notice that we made very specific choices to explore the duality we discovered. To begin, we have two directors on two different, yet similar, journeys with death: one which leads toward loss, and one which leads toward miraculous recovery. All of our principals hold different kinds of dualities: we find with Rose that when we fall in love, we must be willing to accept both the conscious and unconscious forces at work in the psyche of the Beloved, and in ourselves. Exupéry seems to suggest that we carry the wounds of our childhood into our adulting; he reminds us to be gentle with one another. Snake is the Great Goddess, the Womb and Tomb of Natural World. She inspires us to confront the fear of the unknown through acceptance of our constant ability to transform and transcend our limitations. Both roles are played by two actresses to amplify this powerful theme. We also have real people and puppet actors in the show. It was important to heighten the sense of distortion between those who see with the heart and those who see only with the eyes. We have two Little Princes: one, a girl, and one, a boy. Gender, after all, is a construct of the mind and of society, it is an agreement, not a truth. It’s time to really challenge paradigms which are based in power and move toward creating paradigms based in love. In this double-casting choice, the Little Prince is also not fixed to a single vision of “who the character was, or is,” it also suggests the possibility of who the character is going to become after returning home. Ironically, we had three sets of twins involved in the casting of this production: both actors playing the Little Prince are twins, as well as one of our Roses. You might also notice the striking similarities between the Aviator and Fox. I like to think of Fox as the Aviator’s higher self; the ancient one inside all of us, that gives us the exact wisdom we most critically need dark nights of the soul. And finally, the script called for an ensemble so we called upon the ancient and powerful idea of a Greek Chorus: the ensemble play the supporting cast members as well as create sunsets, baobobs, volcanoes, and birds; they are the landscape of the world around this story. Blending the idea of my love for Greek Chorus with Laura’s passion for ballet was so exhilarating to watch come to life.
We are so incredibly honored to share in this creative vision with such a talented dream team of designers as well as our unbelievably talented cast. We are deeply grateful to all of you for sharing this vision with the eyes of your hearts. Thank you to Harmonie, Michael, Liz, Evan, Mike, Mark, Linda, and David. Thanks to my son, Charlie. (I love sharing this story with you!) Thank you, Mary, for stepping in as ASM. Thank you, Kristelle, for lending your artistic expertise. Thank you to Doug for warmly welcoming us and cheering us on. Thank you to John Cramer for being our champion and never losing faith that we could tell this story through our own challenging journeys. Thank you to the WCT administrative team: Rhonda, Katie, Meghan, and Nancy for invaluable mentorship through the entire process. Thank you to Phillip and all the volunteers. Thank you for consulting on the set design, Derek Castor and Dustin Martin. Thank you, Jim Padovano. We so appreciated your welcome and support to us in this space. Thank you to all the parents and families that allowed us the time with your talented children and partners. Thank you to Katie Cummings and Pink Umbrella Theatre for consulting with us on sensory-friendly performances. Thanks to Peter for spear-heading WCT’s first inclusive show. We cannot think of a more beautiful story to launch this new WCT tradition.
Finally, we dedicate this performance to you, the audience, and to all who hold this story dear. Actually, no. We dedicate this show to the children you used to be, who knew the difference between a hat and a boa constrictor eating an elephant. Most importantly, we dedicate this to the little ones inside you who know how important it is to tend to the baobabs of doubt and fear, like Laura’s son, Burgoyne, who despite having a tumor removed from his brain, the size of a grapefruit, miraculously continues to get stronger and stronger every day! While we were in rehearsal, he not only traveled to Korea, he managed to complete his final class for his master’s degree in education! Burgoyne is living proof of the transformative and healing power in the stories we tell ourselves.
As for me, I am learning to see my mother with the eyes of my heart. On a quiet evening, when I look at the moon…I think…I can hear her laughing…
Dr. Shannon Sloan-Spice
Now that summer is almost over, along with vacations and all of the summer activities, maybe it’s time to think about our entertainment schedules for the fall and on into next year. One great idea is to enjoy a change of pace, to be able to sit back and just enjoy a live stage performance put on by local actors. I am talking about the Waukesha Civic Theatre, located in the old PIX theatre building in downtown Waukesha. This non-profit organization puts on a variety of plays every year, and this is in addition to theatrical education programs, video showings, and much more.
When was the last time you went to live theatre? It’s much different than going to a movie or a sports event. Sometimes the plays just entertain you, sometimes they challenge your basic concepts. Whether you like a play or not, you have to be impressed with the time and effort our local entertainers put into the productions. So why not try something different this year and visit the Waukesha Civic Theatre? My wife and I are season ticket holders, and before that my parents were season ticket holders. I have to say that these plays are done as well as any I have seen from Purdue University to Milwaukee to Fort Atkinson.
This fall’s Mainstage lineup begins with The Little Prince, a play based on a book by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. The Little Prince brings to life the story of an Aviator lost in the desert who learns what it is to be tamed. This show deals with the themes of love, loss, and friendship. This play runs from September 13-29, 2019. Tickets can be purchased at the Box Office on Main Street in Waukesha or online via the Theatre’s website www.waukeshacivictheatre.org. If you go to the website, take time to look at all the things the Theatre does in our community, and if I were you, I would buy season tickets for the seven Mainstage shows.
Board of Directors