By Miranda Haley
I was recently thrilled to discover that Atlanta’s own Alliance Theater has a program for children 18 months to five years old. The Alliance Theater For The Very Young performs interactive, artistic plays for the youngest children. Each season has a new set of shows. We attended the a production called “Waiting For Balloon.” Although productions change, there is always interaction with the kids and a similar theatre set up. Here’s what we found during Waiting for Balloon.
Waiting for Balloon at the Alliance Theatre for the Very Young
Waiting for Balloon features two hobo clowns waiting for “balloon” to come, but they do not know what a balloon looks like. Through audience participation the clowns and children work their way through a variety of objects before they finally discover the balloon.
Alliance Theatre for the Very Young Caters to Little Ones Immediately
Upon arrival and check-in, each child has time to draw a picture of a balloon. Before heading into the Black Box Theater, the children each receive a piece of yarn that is their “ticket” to the show. An actor dressed as a train conductor leads the group in her “choo-choo train” into the theater where the kids turn in their “tickets” and choose a seat on low risers. The theater is small and audiences are kept small as well to create an intimate environment where every child has opportunities to participate.
Personally as a child I was terrified of clowns…still sort of am today. However I was really impressed with the actors. They perform in a style called “gentle clowning” that is less jarring for children (and some adults). There is no garish clown make-up, just hobo costumes and physical comedy. I was initially concerned about how my one year old daughter might react to clowns, but she loved them!
This play was engaging for a variety of ages. My daughter is just starting to learn about humor and was acutely aware when the older children laughed so started watching for the comedic moments. The children were all encouraged to help the clowns sort through different objects and determine if they were balloons. Every object was named and translated into Spanish. The clowns would often count and made sure to use Spanish then as well. The older children were ecstatic to show off their bi-lingual skills and learn new words.
Imaginations ran wild at “Waiting For Balloon.” Each object was re-imagined and the children followed along with every activity to pretend play with the clowns. My daughter was actually not the youngest to my surprise. There were a few baby sisters/brothers and they were all bright eyes and smiles throughout the performance. My daughter and some of the younger children were shy at first, but the actors made a point to be gently engaging with them and were able to draw them each into the action. The older children were encouraged to call out answers, explore options, follow directions and pretend play.
By the end of the play, my daughter was following the other kids around the theater and interacting with the clowns. We both had a fantastic time and I cannot wait to take her to another show. It was a wonderfully creative and warm environment. This is the perfect way to introduce the little ones to live theater without worrying if they will squirm or be distracting.
Parking and Bathrooms at the Alliance Theatre for the Very Young
If you plan to attend the 9:30 performance, prepare for the traffic downtown. There is metered parking around the Woodruff Center, but there may not be many available that early in the morning. I have had luck with those spots in the afternoon though. There are several pay by the hour parking decks around, but they are a bit pricey. We parked in one close to Woodruff Center and ended up paying $12 for less than two hours.
Dress comfortably as you may be sitting on the risers with your kiddos if there are not enough chairs for all the parents. There are restrooms, but I did not find one close by with a changing table. If you go down to the 2nd floor, there are more spacious restrooms with room on the counter for changing babies.
What: Alliance Theater For The Very Young
Where: The Woodruff Arts Center | 1280 Peachtree Street, Atlanta, GA 30309 | 3rd Floor, Black Box Theater