The Little Prince
For the last few months I’ve been busy working with new friends at the East Boston Playhouse. All of that hard work culminated this past weekend in the public performances of our show, The Little Prince, a delightful adaptation of Antoine de Saint Exupery’s classic story. I was privileged to play the narrator and main character, “The Aviator.” This character is based undoubtably on Saint Exupery himself, as he was a solo airplane pilot who ironically disappeared in the desert after one final fated flight. I found great meaning in this story and especially in my opportunity to “experience it” first hand on stage night after night.
The story tells of a man who as a child loved to draw. But being corrected by “the grown ups” and finding himself misunderstood in the world, he choses a solitary life of aviation. After crashing his prop plane in the Saharan desert, he meets a little boy. This mysterious boy, appearing only at sunset, tells of his own great journey from another, much smaller planet. There is much to learn from the boy’s past whose stories and interactions with strange characters provide great wisdom, each insight chipping away slowly at the hardened shell of a man this lonely aviator has become and revealing the lost, joyful, creative boy he once was. Finally out of drinking water and nearing death, the Aviator accompanies the boy on a desperate (and seemingly foolish) quest to locate a well in the desert. It is here, perhaps in the disillusionment of death, that the Aviator finally understands some of the wisdom shared by the boy’s experiences. And there on stage every night I enjoyed portraying a great transformation. The Aviator recalls in monologue to the audience this moment of clarity: “…and I said to myself, ‘What I see here is nothing but a shell; what is most important IS invisible.’” And just at that moment, the long-sought-after well of fresh water appears. Finally revived from his near-death thirst, the Aviator recalls to his now-dubbed “Little Prince” the change that has taken place in him. He has been reborn at the well. The Little Prince laughs as if he has known it all along. The man is tame, just like the prince’s story of a fox. The mood changes quickly, though, as the Little Prince reveals he intended plans to return “home.” He has met a snake who has promised him transportation to his planet, albeit leaving his shell-of-a-body behind. The Aviator stands weeping as he watches his young friend prepare for this passage via death at the hands of a snake. The epilogue reveals that the Aviator, years later, truly has not forgotten his rebirth and the great wisdom of his friend.
Wow. I cannot begin to say all of the deep personal emotional connections I made both with this story and with the character I was privileged to play. I could also not help but interpret this story in light of my own experience and understanding of another Prince who appeared on earth, full of other-worldly wisdom, teaching those who would listen of the potential in all of us to be reborn and regain our childlike nature. I hope people have a chance to meet Him and learn to see the world differently as I have. For those who have been changed by profound personal experiences, may we live in ways that truly embodies the other-worldly wisdom of our Prince.