The Cooper Center for Creative Arts is set to bring a fantastical allegory to the stage next weekend.
“The Little Prince” is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Thursday and Nov. 23 at the Cooper Center, 1174 N. Fourth St. Tickets are $7 in advance or $10 at the door.
Based on the 1943 novella by French author Antoine de Saint-Exupery, the story follows a young prince as he visits various planets and makes observations about human nature. The beloved story is one of the best-selling books ever and has been translated into 300 languages as well as adapted for stage, film, television and even opera.
Several members of the cast were already familiar with the story, as they had studied it in a book group last spring.
Director Kayc DeMaranville said she decided to adapt “The Little Prince” for the Cooper Center stage because it would be a good story for the group to tell.
“We thought we could use a lot of wonderful color in the lighting to tell the story, and we thought we could use dance to tell the story,” she said.
The cast of 15 has been in rehearsals all fall.
In the Cooper Center adaptation, the prince discovers concepts such as materialism and conceit as he visits new planets, including Earth.
“Every planet teaches the Little Prince a different lesson,” DeMaranville said.
Such lessons are presented at a fantasy level for younger audience members and an allegorical level for adults.
“The lessons of the play are lessons that adults could use as well,” she said.
DeMaranville said she enjoys incorporating dance into Cooper Center productions because it allows for participation by cast members who may not be able to memorize lines or use their voice to communicate on stage.
“It allows our actors who are neurodiverse a performance opportunity if we use dance and other methods to tell stories,” she said.
Some cast members are longtime stage veterans, while this cast also features two actors taking the stage for the first time. DeMaranville said the veterans have taken on a mentor role in leading the new cast members, helping them adapt to the pressure of learning and performing.
“They’re very complimentary of their work, and they know how it feels when you make a mistake and how horrible you feel, so they’re very forgiving to each other,” she said.
As in any production, theater participants have the chance to hone their leadership and communication skills. “The Little Prince” in particular has also forced the group to rely on each other in an ensemble setting.
“They’re learning a collaborative approach, perhaps more so in this show than others,” DeMaranville said.
The Cooper Center is a division of Ark Regional Services and provides opportunities for people with intellectual disabilities to explore the arts. The center offers classes in visual arts, dance, theater and music.