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Puppets help ‘The Little Prince’ safely take the stage

Godfrey-Lee — The high school’s drama club put on a show featuring puppets and party string, with safety precautions in mind.

After canceling their 2020 spring musical due to the COVID pandemic, the Godfrey-Lee thespians were excited to perform their first show since. “The Little Prince” is a play based on the book of the same name by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. It was performed Nov. 12 and 13.

Library media specialist and drama Director Harry Coffill came up with the idea to incorporate puppets into the cast, to allow for some social distancing and help inspire the students’ and audience’s imaginations. 

Coffill also decided to perform in the media center over the schools’ Oosterhouse Activity Center because they “didn’t have to compete for availability and it felt like a more intimate setting.” 

While performing the show cabaret style, the main actors remained on stage to deliver their lines and imagine visiting the puppet characters on other planets. 

The Little Prince, played by eighth-grader Jasmyn Taylor, told the stories of meeting a king, a lamplighter and a geographer on those far-away planets. 

Projections of images on the wall, sound effects and the audience’s imagination propelled the story forward. 

An annual donation from a generous benefactor, Coffill said, provided funds to rent lighting and sound equipment, as well as the whimsical puppets.

Getting Into Character 

Coffill read “The Little Prince” in college but rediscovered the story as an adult, realizing its “harsh bits of reality,” he said, and that “it’s not just a children’s story.”

“As a literature teacher, it’s been fun to watch the students pick up on the metaphors in the play.”

Ninth-grader Asianae Burton-Davis, who plays the Aviator, said she “squeaks” whenever she figures out another part of the metaphor.

“Being a part of theater allows me to talk to more people and really helps with my confidence,” Asianae said about playing the lead role. Coffill joked with her about her character having “more lines than Jesus has in the Bible.”

Students wore green gloves to suggest they were baobab trees, and the volcanoes shot red party string above their heads.

By the end of their scenes, ninth-grader Christian Kashindi said her shoulders can get very tired from holding up the puppet.

Cofill’s student director, eighth-grader Aaliyah Wheeler, said she enjoys working with cast members to help them become their characters on stage. 

“It’s fun helping everyone bring their character to life. I try to remind them they’re trying to be a character, not themselves, and each person is helping to bring the show together.”

After the show, the stage will be turned into the yellow brick road to get ready for the spring musical, “The Wiz,” Coffill said.

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Alexis Stark
Alexis Stark is a reporter, covering Caledonia, Kenowa Hills, Godfrey-Lee, Grand Rapids and is a roving reporter for GRCC, Wyoming, Kentwood and Byron Center. She grew up in metro Detroit and her journalism journey brought her west to Grand Rapids via Michigan State University where she covered features and campus news for The State News. She also co-authored three 100-question guides to increase understanding and awareness of various human identities, through the MSU School of Journalism. Following graduation, she worked as a beat reporter for The Ann Arbor News - covering stories on education, community, prison arts and poetry.  Following a stint as a copywriter for a Grand Rapids area PR firm, she transitioned from communications to freelance writing and reporting for SNN.  Read Alexis' full bio

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