by Allie Fogel
Taking your small child to the theater can be risky business. What if a quiet moment on the stage coincides with major drama brewing in your child’s seat? It could even get worse if your young one starts to loudly proclaim his disinterest in the middle of a plot-changing scene or a lovely ballad. All eyes in the house shift to you and your noisy, squirming kid.
Luckily for you and for any avid theatergoers with young tykes, the Alliance Theatre offers the ultimate solution for avoiding awkward theater moments by keeping the youngest audience members fully engaged in the production. The company’s new Theatre for the Very Young series offers highly interactive, professional performances for children ages 18 months to 5 years.
It might seem like quite a feat to take your 18-month-old to his first live play. But Rosemary Newcott, artistic director for youth at the Alliance, assures that the experience is pure magic.
“In the Theatre for the Very Young performances, the fourth wall is completely dissolved,” Newcott says. “Children are invited to wander around the theater, become a part of the experience and interact with the actors. It really is the most restorative and purist form of theater.”
The new series is just under way with “The Tranquil Tortoise and the Hoppity Hare” now in production. Shows for the very young later in the season: “Waiting for Balloon” and “A Child’s Garden of Verses.” Every performance begins with a pre-show activity to help create an inviting environment for the children.
“It’s pretty remarkable to watch these children have their very first artistic experience and see the parents’ reactions as well,” Newcott says. “There is no telling where the show is going to go and how the kids will interact. Every show is completely different.”
Chris Moses, director of educational programs for the Alliance, agrees. The young children who attend these shows “really choose how they want to participate,” he says. “Some just watch while others really become a part of the show.”
Alliance Theatre, 2012-13
Theatre for the Very Young
“The Tranquil Tortoise and the Hoppity Hare” Sept. 4-8, 15, 22
“Waiting for Balloon” Dec. 27-30; Jan. 3-6, 12, 19
“A Child’s Garden of Verses” March 11-16, 23, 28-30
Tickets: 404-733-5000; alliancetheatre.org