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This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Kathy and Ken Bernhardt Theatre for the Very Young at the Alliance Theatre, celebrating their innovative productions for babies and young children with a new show. The experience called “Knock, Knock,” created for audiences aged 2-5 and their accompanying grownups features a unique interactive set design that invites the playful exploration of every child present. “City Lights” host Lois Reitzes was joined via Zoom by “Knock Knock” director Samantha Provenzano, Alliance director of education Chris Moses, and Karen Anderson Singer, associate artistic director at Alliance and creator of Tiny Doors ATL.

Moses explained the origins of the Theatre’s programming for “the very young,” an idea inspired by two Alliance employees’ visit to a South Korean theatrical production designed with the interests, behaviors, and needs of infants and toddlers in mind. They returned determined to produce a show with similar goals in mind for the Alliance.

With the generous funding of Kathy and Ken Bernhardt, the non-profit now create fully interactive, immersive experiences for audiences rarely prioritized by theater-makers. “Here we are, ten years on,” said Moses. “We’ve developed 21 original productions, which is mind-boggling. Every Atlanta public school pre-K student gets to come and see one of these shows. It is just part of their growing-up experience here in Atlanta, and it’s now a core part of who we are at the Alliance Theatre.”

“What makes it so special is that we really want unfettered participation from the audience,” said Moses. “We want to allow them to meet this work on their own terms, to roam around the stage freely, and fully interact with the experience…. This winter’s show will be a little different, limiting the age range of attending children to 2-5, due to COVID safety concerns, given that they cannot be vaccinated and must be at least old enough to wear a mask. Hopefully, come spring and next year, we’ll be back to that zero-to-five group.”

Director Provenzano described how she and her co-creator Olivia Aston-Bosworth came up with the idea for “Knock Knock.” “Winter is so special because we get to bring the warmth and light that’s usually enjoyed outside, inside and celebrate that with our families,” said Provenzano. “So, we thought about, ‘Where do we find a lot of warmth and light?’ And we thought about homes, and we thought about ‘Where are there a lot of homes?’ And we landed on the apartment building.”

As attendees enter the theater, they’re checked into a miniature leasing office. Then, a simulated winter night’s experience of exploring the apartment begins. “You will experience the three floors of the apartment building and the tenants that live there, and there are going to be moments of joy and a little bit of chaos, and a lot of celebrating,” said Provenzano.

Karen Anderson Singer, known throughout Atlanta for her charming and surprising “Tiny Doors” that have popped up in Atlanta’s nooks and crannies over the last several years, must have seemed a natural choice for creating the sets of “Knock Knock.” “I was up for any kind of adventure that they wanted to bring my way,” said Singer, “And we ended up doing a set that is miniature and also an immersive hallway that is much larger. One of the doors is larger-than-life-size, all the way down to a tiny door. So it’s all scales at play.”

“It showcases community in this very real sense that I’m reminded of every day in rehearsal, where I see two people who are not in the same household, playing together and sharing in this joy and fun,” Provenzano said.

“Knock Knock” is being performed from Dec. 2 – 23 at the Selig Family Black Box Theatre at Atlanta’s Alliance Theatre. More information and tickets are available at https://alliancetheatre.org/production/2021-22/knock-knock.

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