By Dave Ongie, News Editor
When the stresses and pressures of everyday life get Ben Holland down, he likes to sit down with his wife at the end of the day and watch The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.
“When we watch that show, it kind of allows us to not think about reality for a little bit and have some enjoyment, said Holland, Head of School at Providence Academy.
In recent weeks, reality has hit everyone pretty hard. The COVID-19 outbreak has upended every aspect of life as social distancing measures have systematically closed businesses and churches, shut down sports and entertainment and closed down school for everyone from kindergarten through college.
On the day in late March when Holland found out Providence students were going to have to transition from their traditional classroom format to online education, Holland found himself in a funk even Fallon couldn’t pull him out of.
“I couldn’t sleep,” he said. “I was just kind of wrestling with the idea of what the kids were going to do. I’ve got small kids at home. How does a kid process all of this? It’s hard for an adult.”
Holland’s tossing and turning eventually gave birth to an idea. He woke up the next morning and started calling his staff and told them they’d be doing a late-night talk show for Providence students, except it would air every weekday morning at 9.
The Knight Show (a nod to Providence’s mascot) is a slick, 30-minute production complete with comedy sketches, educational segments, Bible lessons and occasional community service messages. Holland plays the prototypical late-night host, perched behind a desk in a suit interacting with his guests, who appear virtually. The finished product is so smooth that it’s hard to believe the whole thing is done in Holland’s basement with three people doing the lion’s share of the production work. Holland is the host and writes a good deal of the show’s content, Jordy Whetsell handles the camera work and other production duties and Megan O’Bryant – a lunchroom aide at Providence with a theatre background – wrangles guests via virtual meeting apps.
“One of the main goals is that I’ve got to keep all of my teachers and all of my people employed,” Holland said. “I was looking through resumes and I saw she had a degree in theatre.”
As entertaining as the whole production is, there is a larger purpose for the show. Each weekday, Holland strives to provide some structure, stability and security for his students and their families during a time of great uncertainty.
“The show is kind of like an escape from this reality back to our past reality,” Holland said.
Of course, an added bonus is the fact that most young kids – the show is geared primarily toward elementary-aged students – end up learning something. Several faculty members take part in the show by presenting creative projects that are fun and educational, and Holland’s wife and two kids also join the fun.
Many families use the show as a springboard into the online learning portion of their day, and the show provides the Providence community with a shared experience they can enjoy together, albeit virtually. And the reach of the show has already extended well beyond Providence Academy, which has a student body of just 500.
“Sometimes we’ll have as many as 3,000 people watching it,” Holland said, adding that over 10,000 people had viewed a promo for the show. “It’s for anybody in the community. People are watching from all over the world, so anybody can take part in the show and use it as a tool. It’s free for anyone to take part in.”
More information on the Knight Show can be found at www.theknightshowlive.com.