Leave it to Lookingglass to make a great leap of artistic courage by mounting a stage adaptation of "The Little Prince," Antoine de Saint-Exupéry beloved-but-bizarre children's classic. Once again, the company is collaborating with the Evanston-based Actors Gymnasium, which reunites many of the creators that birthed the company's wildly successful "Lookingglass Alice." Just before Thanksgiving, we attended a rehearsal at the Mag Mile theater, and chatted with says Lookingglass cofounder and "Prince" director David Catlin.
Just Kidding: When did you first read "The Little Prince"?
David Catlin: I came to the book as an adult; I grew up in a house that had lots of books, but for some reason, “The Little Prince” was not a book we had. One of the things I love about the book, like the “Alice” stories—and like a lot of your children's literature—is that it operates on so many levels. On the surface, there are these great characters you laugh at because they're so interesting and strange or silly or weird. Then underneath it, there's another layer. Sometimes the older you get, the more you appreciate it. It's not that kids don't understand some of the other layers; maybe they aren't in a place in their lives where they need them, or they understand them intuitively already.
How long have you thought about bringing it to the Lookingglass stage?
Three or four years ago, I reread it and thought it was so beautiful—for its sadness and melancholy, for its lovely humor. I was struck by it and wanted to do it. I also teach at Northwestern , and I thought it would be great opportunity to stage this [there]. I wasn't sure how it would work for college students, but they are at the stage where they're moving from being a child to being a grownup. The play has messages for them that are deeply important.
“After that [Northwestern production in 2012], I thought it would be a great opportunity to bring it to Lookingglass. Saint-Exupéry wrote it when he was in his early 40s. Most of the Lookingglass cast is mostly comprised of people in their late 30s, early 40s, so there's a life history there. [Like the Aviator,] they've all felt stuck, alone and thirsty at some point. We also have the young woman who played The Little Prince in the Northwestern production, Amelia Hefferon. She's playing the role again here, and it's been really great to watch how her performance has bloomed.
Many people in the cast are parents. What kind of perspective does that bring? Does it help to be able to check in with your kids?
Absolutely. Our kids have a strong influence, in a number of ways. One of Louise Lamson's [the actress who plays the Rose] sons visited rehearsals; he's about 7. I stopped rehearsal and had Amelia watch him, so she could really understand a boy that age and informs her performance. [Another boy,] Griffin was also there; he's 12 or 13. He has that kind of sweet, beautiful sense of melancholy. Amelia listened to the sound of his voice, which helped her find her own [for the character].
Another, a four-year-old named Giovanni, saw the picture a the book of a Little Prince. His eyes lit up and he said, “Look at that sword!” In our rendering of the Little Prince, we didn't have a sword. But now, because of the four-year-old, we have a sword. We're ears open for all the good ideas.Now in previews, “The Little Prince” opens December 14th and runs through February 23rdat Lookingglass Theatre (inside Water Tower Water Works), 821 N. Michigan Ave. Tickets are $35–$75 (312-337-0665, lookingglasstheatre.org).