Oregon State University's theater department does a children's show every other year, and now Jen Waters understands why:
"I realized this is actually how actors make money," said Waters, an alumna of the OSU theater program and the director of "The Little Prince," which opens Friday. "This and commercials."
The hour-long adaptation of the beloved tale by Antoine de Saint-Exupery is scheduled for a two-weekend run at OSU. It's part of a season-long series of plays exploring how literature can come to life on stage.
After graduating from OSU, Waters has spent plenty of time involved in other theatrical productions, including 15 years or so directing children's shows.
When Elizabeth Helman of OSU's Theatre Department added "The Little Prince" to the 2018-19 roster of shows, she reached out to Waters, who had recently returned to the mid-valley from Portland, to see if she would be interested in helming the show.
She was. But she wasn't particularly interested in highlighting the whimsical parts of the story, about the unlikely friendship that blossoms between a stranded aviator and a mysterious little prince who's visiting Earth from a strange and magical planet.
It's a oddball and wondrous tale that, among other themes, has something to say about the transition between childhood and adulthood.
She didn't want to mask those ideas, which likely will hit home with adults. But it also was important to stage a production with enough color and motion and funny bits to appeal to kids.
"I've tried to make it flashy enough to appeal to children," she said.
So Waters has added a twist to Rick Cummins and John Scouliar's stage adaptation of the story: She's paired it with the sparkly aesthetic of 1970s glam rock. Think of David Bowie's "Ziggy Stardust," and you've got the right idea.
Waters said glam rock hits on some of the same themes that come up in "The Little Prince," including the transition from childhood into adulthood, the inevitably of loss and the enduring power of love.
"Plus, I get to use some cool music," she said.
So the show features colorful costumes (created by OSU's DeMara Cabrera) and makeup that are reminiscent of the glam-rock rock era. And the music includes kid-friendly arrangements of tunes like Bowie's "Starman" and Elton John's "The Bitch is Back."
That musical setting strikes a chord with her young cast and crew, Waters said: "There's a lot of themes that glam rock was exploring that are coming up in this generation."
The show features Leah Kahn as the Little Prince and Adam Keenan as The Aviator. The ensemble includes Molly Duddlesten, Joshua Gasaway, Genesis Hansen, Emily Jackson, Emily Moehn, Nicole Moussa, Taylor Stageberg, Amy Stein and Alex "Kiwi" Sturgeon.
When casting the show, Waters said, she was looking for performers who shared a couple of important traits: Energy, and "a willingness to look silly on stage."
"I was looking for people who were willing to put themselves out there," she said.
And for Waters, the parent of a 3-year-old daughter, there's one other feature of this production that's important: It runs for only about an hour.
"When you're a parent, you're more likely to bring your child to something that's just an hour," Waters said, speaking from hard-won experience.