An intelligent, creative, intrepid young prince from a planet the size of a house embarks on a hero's journey across the universe and finds himself on Earth, where he befriends a 1940s aviator who has just crashed his plane in the Sahara desert. The aviator, or pilot, becomes the adventure's narrator, describing the remarkable encounters the young prince has with fantastical beings, each teaching them both important life lessons. The outward journey becomes an inward one, where both man and boy learn about loneliness, responsibility, honor, love and sacrifice. When the young prince realizes the pilot is dying of thirst, he leads him to a refreshing well. He then makes an ultimate sacrifice of himself for love, leaving his devoted friend behind to share their experience with the world.
Jeff Swearingen's Fun House Theatre and Film Productions presents Laughter in the Stars, an original stage adaptation of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's 1943 beloved, fanciful novella The Little Prince (Le Petit Prince), running for six performances at Plano Children's Theatre this weekend.
Adapted and directed by Swearingen, the production allows him to incorporate his gifts as a physical actor and coach in a fantasy environment provided by the internationally celebrated novella. The Little Prince is the French language's most read and translated book and has sold over 200 million copies worldwide, appearing in more than 250 languages and dialects.
The production's supreme challenge is finding a child actor who can portray the Little Prince effectively. "To a child, the line load alone makes the role comparable to Hamlet," explains Swearingen. Over the past few years, 11-year-old Jaxon Beeson has excelled as a versatile actor in Fun House shows and earned positive notices in a featured role in professional Echo Theatre's The Executioner's Sons. Jaxon's father Shane Beeson performs regularly on stage in the DFW Metroplex, which gave Swearingen an idea. Laughter in the Stars will feature the creative talents and unique father/son bond of Jaxon and Shane Beeson as the Little Prince and the Pilot.
Jaxon and Shane shared about this stage experience over a pancake breakfast with Alexandra Bonifield recently.
TheaterJones: How did you get into theatre?
Jaxon: I had seen a lot of my dad's plays, and it seemed so normal. When I was 7, I played "Big Bad" in The Big Bad Wolf at Plano Children's Theatre. The rehearsals were tough, but I really like performing. It's fun to work with friends on stage! I started studying with Jeff Swearingen and performing in his plays. I want to keep doing this.
Shane: At Jesuit Prep School I didn't participate in school drama; but I toured with a Planned Parenthood-sponsored educational outreach program dealing with teen-age issues. After graduating, from college, I toured with a Shakespeare company performing a rotating repertory of his works, for youth audiences. In the 90s I performed all over the DFW metroplex. After a stint on New York City's Wall Street, I returned with my wife and son to Dallas. I have continued performing here since 2004, from FIT Festivals at the Bath House Cultural Center to Noises Off at Theatre Arlington. This is my first chance to perform on stage with Jaxon. It's really exciting to share this activity with him.
What's the best part of this play and the hardest part?
Jaxon: I love history; it's fun to learn about the past. Working with my dad and Jeff Swearingen and Andy Baldwin in this play has taught me a lot about acting. It's really hard to remember all those lines! I get so tired. My dad memorizes easily; he helps me every night. He's good as the Pilot, but he's still my Dad. It's all worth it; it feels good when people enjoy our performance.
Shane: The message and the profound meaning of this play—I hope people resonate with its beauty and innocence, the purity of the love it expresses. I agree, it's wonderful and challenging to be on stage with real pros like Jeff Swearingen and Andy Baldwin… and also Jaxon Beeson! The hardest part is going to be the play's end, when The Little Prince leaves me. I'll probably shed real tears every performance.
Shane Beeson has a deep understanding of life-threatening loss. On 9/11 he was working on the 28th floor of an office building next to the Twin Towers. When the second plane hit, people on his floor began screaming, "They're bombing the building." He and his co-workers fled in blind terror and hid in an underground parking garage barely able to breathe, lucky to survive. They ran so fast, he left his cell phone behind. Unknown to him, his wife could see the disaster erupt on her way to work and could not reach him for hours, fearing the worst. When he finally got to the safety of his home with his wife and baby Jaxon, he found small shards of torn airplane metal in his hair.
Badly shaken, they returned to Dallas soon after, with a new appreciation for the value of life and love and the importance of living every moment.
◊ You can see also read this interview on the author's blog, CriticalRant.com, which is a TheaterJones media partner.
◊ Here's a video trailer for the production: