PEMBROKE — In the play “The Little Prince,” an 8-year-old boy recounts his travels across the universe and back, which while impressive may not make the cast’s impending four hour drive to Roanoke Island any less daunting.
Students of The University of North Carolina at Pembroke will have a rare opportunity to mount a touring production of the children’s play, “The Little Prince” when they take their show on the road to Roanoke Island’s Festival Park performance venue July 16, 17 and 18. Before they set off to uncharted territory however, they will have an opportunity to perform their show in their own backyard, with a special free preview show happening Monday, at 11 a.m. on the Givens Performing Arts Center main stage.
The play is based on the popular children’s book of the same name by French author Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, and tells the story of a magical young boy from a distant planet who, in his travels, has run into an aviator whose plane is stranded in the Sahara desert. Though the play and book are marketed as being intended for children, both director Holden Hansen and his five person cast agree that the story has a deeper subtext about love and growing older that can better be understood by adult audiences.
“The main thing for me is that it is a quality script,” Hansen said. “A student actor introduced me to this play. It is a well written play. It isn’t a play written for children, much like the book, there is a lot of depth there.”
Actress and musical theater major Allyson Ivey, who plays the title role, agrees.
“Every day there is something more to read between the lines than just a little kid’s show,” Ivey said. “Seeing the show is way different than working on it. It is so much about love and how people don’t take advantage of what a great thing it can be and (how) difficult it can be at the same time.”
This won’t be 21-year-old Ivey’s first time playing someone of the opposite sex. Ivey, who began acting at the age of 6, spent her first five years as an actress playing the role of Tiny Tim in an annual production of “A Christmas Carol.”
“I grew up as a Tomboy, so it has been easier for me, but the older I get, the more I struggle with my naturally high voice,” Ivey said. “I keep having to remember he is an 8-year-old, but he isn’t supposed to sound like an 8-year-old girl. Still, I have always found it a bit easier walking as a boy, maybe because I grew up with a bunch of brothers.”
Ivey will be joined on stage by fellow student actors Stephen Shane, playing the King, Conceited Man, Business Man and Geographer; Ashley Nichol, playing Snake and Fox; Jessica Perry, playing Rose and Lamplighter; and newcomer Wayne Locklear, co-starring in the role of the Aviator.
Whereas Ivey has spent her life pursuing theater, this will mark 19-year-old Locklear’s first foray into the performing arts.
“There was an audition for it, and I decided to step out of my comfort zone and do it,” Locklear said. “I am really interested in theater. I have taken a liking to it now.”
More so than simply providing entertainment, Hansen says that opportunities like these help students prepare for a life in the arts, which will oftentimes involve performing in traveling productions that can be mounted and broken down at a moment’s notice. This will be Pembroke’s fifth year performing shows for the Roanoke Island Festival Park venue.
“We have a student costume designer this year who put together costumes and the students participate in building the set. They have to do everything that a traveling theater company does,” Hansen said. “I think that clearly it is a real world professional style acting experience. They are getting a little stipend, a per diem for field money. They see through the creation of a production all the way to the audience performance and they travel … This sort of gives them a taste of what the real world is like as far as professional theater.”
Though tickets for the Monday preview show are free, Hansen is asking that reservations be made in advance by calling 910-521-6774.
James Johnson may be reached at 910-272-6144 or on Twitter @JJohnsonRobeson.