Fresno City College’s ‘Prince’ has come, and a children’s tale comes to life on stage
You’ve never quite seen Anthony teNyenhuis like this before. Seriously. They’ve given him yellow hair. But, chances are you’ve seen this versatile young actor somewhere on a local stage. He’s popped up in what can seem like one consecutive production after another (and many of them long runs at Good Company Players). He’s serious about this acting thing.
As the title character in Fresno City College’s sumptuous new production of “The Little Prince,” directed by Janine Christl, teNyenhuis gets to bask in the spotlight for the next two weekends as the stage adaptation of the classic children’s tale comes to life. I caught up with him in a phone interview and email exchange as opening night approached.
Q: Anthony, first off, I have to admit to something: I’ve written about you a lot over the past couple of years, but I still don’t know how to pronounce your last name. When I see your first and last names in print, I say to myself, “Anthony Te-mumble-mumble.” Can you set the record straight once and for all? Any pronunciation tips?
A: Tuh-ny-en-house. It helps to abbreviate it as “t-9-house”!
Are you a member of The Munro Review? Win a pair of tickets to ‘The Little Prince’
Q: In college I lived next to Tenaya Hall, so I shall hereafter think of a resident of that dorm — a “Tenayan” — plus house. When you win your first Oscar, I can write a book about you, and that will be the title. So, you landed the role of the Little Prince in “The Little Prince,” which is kind of like playing Annie in “Annie,” or the mother in “Mamma Mia,” or something like that. We’re always talking about how little girls would love to be princesses someday. When you were little, did you ever dream of being a prince?
A: I don’t recall dreaming of becoming a prince, but I distinctly remember wanting nothing more than to become a Pokemon trainer. Unfortunately, it hasn’t really panned out yet.
Q: The play is based on the novella by French author Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. For people who aren’t familiar with the title, can you tell us a little about the story?
A: A pilot — the Aviator — crash lands his plane in the Sahara Desert. While there, frantically trying to fix his plane, he encounters the Little Prince. The Prince starts talking about the planet he came from and his journey to Earth. Even though the pilot is stranded in the desert, he begins listening and starts to learn just as much about himself as he does about the prince.
Q: It almost sounds like it has a sci-fi vibe.
A: I hadn’t thought about that! Technically, the Little Prince is an alien flying from planet to planet meeting other aliens. The play has a lot more of a magic realism feel to it than science fiction. However, I would have been in favor of having a spaceship to travel to each planet.
Q: Tell us about the prince. Do you play him as a little boy or as an adult?
A: When I first started preparing for the role, the Prince’s age is something I thought about constantly. He is playful, naive, and loving like a child, but he is also brave and introspective like an adult. As soon as rehearsals began, I stopped thinking of him in terms of “adult” or “child.” The stories the Little Prince tells the Aviator are just as much for grown-ups as they are for kids, which is how I play him. There are a lot of cute, silly moments in the play where I feel like a 12-year-old boy. However, there are other moments that I feel heartbroken, discouraged, and alone. In those moments, I don’t feel like a boy at all. In fact, there are times where I feel like the Aviator is the child and I’m the adult!
Q: Fresno City College’s theater department is well known for its wonderful visual effects. What can we expect in this production?
A: The show is absolutely stunning, everything from the costumes to the set, to the lighting. I really feel spoiled as a performer and can’t wait for audiences to become immersed. It is all superb.
Q: Let’s talk about you. Sometimes it feels like you’re in every local show. You told me you’ve been in something like 15 shows in the past couple of years. Are you trying to set a record? What are your top three favorites?
A: Believe it or not, I have no intention of setting a record! There just is always a show I want to be a part of. At first, I wanted to do as much as I could to learn and better my craft. Now, I just see all these amazing opportunities and don’t want to miss out on any of it. This list changes every day, but my top three favorites right now are: “H.M.S. Pinafore” with Good Company Players, “Particle of Dread” with Fresno State University Theatre, and “Shakespeare’s R&J” with CURTAIN 5 TheatreGROUP.
The Munro Review has no paywall but is financially supported by readers who believe in its non-profit mission of bringing professional arts journalism to the central San Joaquin Valley. You can help by signing up for a monthly recurring paid membership or make a one-time donation of as little as $3. All memberships and donations are tax-deductible.
Q: When you think of all the shows you’ve been in, which one do you look back on and say, “Wow, I wish I had a do-over with that one.” (Or, maybe you just want to forget it entirely?)
A: My senior year of high school, I played the role of Mortimer Brewster in “Arsenic and Old Lace.” I was 17 at the time and it was really only my second show. I would love to tackle that role again with the little bit more experience I have under my belt.
Q: You started in college as a business major, but you’ve switched to theater. Was that a hard sell for your parents? What about yourself? What’s ahead?
A: I am lucky enough to have an amazing family that has always supported me. Once they saw it was something I was really passionate about, it was a much easier conversation than I thought it would be. Honestly, the hardest person to convince was myself. It’s scary to devote so much time towards a degree in acting. There aren’t a whole lot of career options with that compared to a degree in communications or business. I eventually realized that I’d be more fulfilled as a failed actor than just about anything else. I’m planning on attending Fresno State next fall and want to attend graduate school for acting.
Q: OK, let’s get a little random. When actors have anxiety dreams, are they about stuff like forgetting your lines or not wearing any pants on stage? What has been your oddest theater nightmare?
A: For some reason, my anxiety dreams are very similar and always start out with me being unable to make it to the stage. Whether it’s a locked stage door or I’m stuck in quicksand, I just can’t get to the theater. Then, if I get there, I’m usually naked, not off book, and forget which show I’m in. All at the same time.
Q: Describe your personality in just three words.
A: Considerate, passionate and charismatic.
Q. If any of my readers are stuck right now in the Sahara Desert, do you have any survival tips?
A: Find shade during the day, travel at night. You will sweat less and dehydrate slower. Conserve water. Don’t trust snakes, especially if they have a French accent. You’ll thank me later.
Q: Finally: What do you hope people walk away from “The Little Prince” thinking and feeling?
A: Allow yourself to juxtapose your own life to this story. You’ll be surprised how easy it is to connect the two.