This weekend, the Yale Dramatic Association will present its spring exhibition piece, “The Little Prince.” The play, written by John Scoullar, is based on the 1943 children’s book of the same title by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.
“The Little Prince” tells the story of a child from a different planet who falls in love with a rose. When the rose lies to him, he embarks on an intergalactic journey. He visits six planets and learns from a wide range of characters before arriving on Earth, where he meets a snake, a rose, a fox and finally an aviator, who acts as the story’s narrator.
Prisca Dognon ’20, who will direct this weekend’s production, was drawn to the play after reading the children’s book in her high school French class. Dognon said that she read the whimsical tale at a crucial time in her life and wanted to explore its meaning further by revisiting “The Little Prince” while at Yale.
“I wanted to do it in a way that explored the ways that childhood is taken from black women,” Dognon said.
The cast comprises many women and students of color, which Dognon said is important in conveying her intended message. She explained that girls of color are often not allowed to experience the childhood demonstrated in “The Little Prince.”
But Dognon said that she realized a quarter of the way into the rehearsal process that she was “putting a lot of pressure on the show” to make a statement or prove a point. She decided to instead lean into the play’s whimsical nature and allow the cast members to have more fun with the project without the pressure of expressing commentary.
“When you carry the weight of being a person of color, it sometimes feels like you have to do everything to the nth degree and that you’re not allowed to simply exist and express yourself,” said Cleopatra Mavhunga ’22, who will play the Little Prince. “Any person of color or sexuality, any gender or race, everyone is entitled to a childhood.”
While the play adheres to all the main plot points of the book, Dognon said that the script differs significantly from the original text in its voice and tone. She called the script “kind of ridiculous — and not in a fun, funny way,” but maintained that its story is powerful enough to make up for the deficiencies she sees in Scoullar’s adaptation.
Cast and crew members interviewed said that they were excited to work on the show because they enjoyed the book as children.
“I can see the actors feeling the exact same emotions I feel when I read the book, which is really cool,” said Kiran Baucom ’21.
“The Little Prince” will show in the Yale Repertory Theatre this Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. with an additional matinee on Saturday at 2 p.m.
Lindsay Daugherty | firstname.lastname@example.org