Honoring ‘The Little Prince’

The giant man-eating plant is safely under wraps along one wall, strapped down to a palette and covered with a tarp. Its smaller incarnations are stuffed into a large wooden crate teetering nearby, thanks to the loss of one wheel.

The workshop of Monkey Boys Productions in Bristol would seem like any other shop, with tool-cluttered benches and scraps of raw material littering the floor, if it weren’t for the presence of fantastical creatures like these (the various stages of Audrey II from “Little Shop of Horrors”) wherever the eye wanders.

The Monkey Boys’ latest puppets, for a new production of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s classic story “The Little Prince,” are currently sitting backstage at the Bristol Riverside Theatre. Designed by award-winning puppeteer Michael Schupbach, the characters had to evoke Saint-Exupéry’s familiar illustrations without directly drawing upon them. “Those images are so iconic that you want to be careful not to disappoint people,” says director and MBP co-founder Scott Hitz. “Michael’s first challenge was to design a Little Prince that was unique to the production but still maintained enough of the spirit of the original story that people would accept it.”

The Monkey Boys’ puppets are elegant but also playful, reflecting their own personalities. “We use humor a lot, not just in the work, but in the way we interact,” Hitz says. “There’s a lot of jiving and screwing around. We’re professional enough to do large-scale, relatively complex projects — but we have a good time, and that tends to bleed into the people around us.”

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