All ages can find inspiration in “The Little Prince” onstage in Peoria

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Noah Clark stars as the Aviator, Lindsay Gagnon as the Rose and Scarlett Abernathy as the Little Prince in Theater Works “The Little Prince,” onstage Sept. 22-Oct. 8 in Peoria. Photos by Josiah Duka Photography, courtesy of Theater Works.

A world-weary pilot whose sputtering plane strands him in the Sahara, a mysterious young prince from another planet who shares his adventures with the aviator, and a host of other characters who have a lot to say about life, love and wonder.

That’s the story Theater Works brings to the McMillin Theater at the Peoria Center for the Performing Arts Sept. 22-Oct. 8. “The Little Prince,” which opens the YouthWorks season, is adapted by Rick Cummins and John Scoullar from the book by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. Translated into more than 200 languages, it is a cherished classic.

Among its fans is Paul Pedersen, who is directing the show for Theater Works.

“‘The Little Prince’ has been my favorite book since the first time I read it in the seventh grade,” he says. “And at every stage of my life, including now, different lessons and themes have stood out to me. The themes of love, friendship and maintaining a relationship with your inner child are truly universal.”

Pedersen set the Theater Works version in the 1940s, which is when de Saint-Exupéry wrote and illustrated the original manuscript, first published in 1943. “This places the tale right in the middle of World War II,” Pedersen says, “so it felt very natural to make our narrator, the Aviator, a military war pilot, and so we see and hear a lot of wartime inspiration in his imaginings of the Little Prince’s stories.”

Stranded in the desert, the lonely Aviator (Noah Clark) befriends the Little Prince (Scarlett Abernathy).

The tale was also made into a 1974 movie and a 2015 3D-animation film released in the U.S. in 2016.

“The Little Prince” has been called a “child’s fable for adults.” In line with this, Pedersen says, “This cast of young artists quickly realized that this classic fable is so much more than a ‘children’s story,’ and they are doing an amazing job tackling all of the inner workings that make this piece of theater so special.”

Making her theatrical debut is 11-year-old Scarlett Abernathy in the title role of the Little Prince, whose journey through the universe lands him on Earth, but who never stops loving the Rose he left behind. In sixth grade at Legacy Traditional School in Surprise, Scarlett has also appeared as a newsie in a school production of “Yes, Virginia, There Is a Santa Clause,” and has studied ballet, tap, jazz and hip hop. She says she sees a lot of herself in the character and that “the way the Little Prince views the world and handles situations … helps me challenge myself to see the world differently.”

In his first production for Theater Works, Noah Clark says he’s honored to play the role of the Aviator, the lonely pilot, stranded in the desert, who befriends the Little Prince. Currently a sophomore at Glendale Community College, 19-year-old Noah is majoring in theater. He has had roles in a number of GCC shows, including that of Adam Sorenson in “The Shape of Things” and Phaeton in “Metamorphoses.” He also played Philip Lombard in “And Then There Were None,” Sodapop in “The Outsiders” and Nathan Detroit in “Guys and Dolls” at Anthem’s Boulder Creek High School.

Noah sees the Aviator as “an insecure adult who ultimately finds his humanity and peace in life after his experience with the Little Prince.” He adds he can “relate a lot to this character,” and thinks “a lot of the adults watching the show will as well.”

Adults are often so caught up in their daily lives and what they think is important — be that money or fame or power, he adds.

“Life is about connection to other people and building relationships that will last a generation,” Noah says. “This show has allowed me to look outside of myself and see what is truly important.”

“The Little Prince,” which opens the YouthWorks season, is adapted from the book by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. Translated into more than 200 languages, it is a cherished classic.

Sixteen-year-old Lindsay Gagnon is the Rose the Little Prince can’t seem to forget. Lindsay previously played Barnaby Bowler in “The Pauper Princess” for Theater Works and also appeared as Margaret in “9 to 5” and the Baker’s Wife in “Into the Woods” at Valley Vista High School in Surprise, where she is a junior.

“Through playing Rose, I’ve definitely learned that love is difficult, especially when you’re young and naive,” Lindsay says.

Why should anyone go see “The Little Prince?”

“The story of ‘The Little Prince’ is one of those rare books that is relatable to all ages,” Lindsey adds. “It has such a deep message about reconnecting with your childhood that is relevant no matter the time period.”

Scarlett believes ‘The Little Prince’ “can open up everyone’s heart and mind to a different world of imagination.”

And, Noah adds, “I guarantee you anybody can take something away from this show, no matter how old you are.”

The Little Prince: Sept. 22-Oct. 8; 7 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 2:30 p.m. Sundays. Special audio-described performance for visually impaired Sunday, Oct. 1. McMillin Theater at the Peoria Center for the Performing Arts. 623-815-7930 or theaterworks.org.

 

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