Noah King-Bates and Gina Boscarino in “Alabama Story” in its Grand Rapids debut. (Photo by Dave Kagan/Sensitography)

Ebony Road Players, the only Black theater company in Grand Rapids, is presenting the west Michigan premiere of Kenneth Jones’ social justice drama Alabama Story — about interracial marriage, censorship and Civil Rights — as part of the company’s annual recognition of Loving Day, the national June 12 observance of the Supreme Court striking down all laws against interracial marriage. The play runs June 8-11 at Grand Rapids Public Museum.

Hoping to find and produce a title that dovetailed with the ideas surrounding the landmark 1967 Loving v. Virginia case, Edye Evans Hyde, executive director of Ebony Road Players, found Alabama Story when she went fishing on the internet, searching keyword sentences such as “plays about interracial marriage.” She instantly landed on Alabama Story, which is published by Dramatists Play Service and has been produced in more than 40 cities around the country.

Miliana Johnson as librarian Emily Reed and Stephen Anthony Grey as Garth Williams in “Alabama Story” in Grand Rapids. (Photo by Dave Kagan/Sensitography)

Alabama Story charts the true story of a white librarian who sought to protect a banned book called “The Rabbits’ Wedding” in 1959 Montgomery, Alabama. A related plot echoing the librarian’s story involves the reunion of childhood friends, Lily and Joshua, a white woman and a Black man who may well have been on a path to a powerful and then-forbidden relationship had the world not intervened.

The one-on-one conversations between Lily and Joshua intrigued Hyde, who invited Jones (a Michigan native now living in New York City) to meet board members, donors and members of the Grand Rapids creative community in April, in advance of the June run.

Noah King-Bates as Joshua in “Alabama Story,” produced by Ebony Road Players. (Photo by Dave Kagan/Sensitography)

Ebony Road Players’ mission is “to inspire, educate and engage the cultures of our community with high-quality theater productions focused on the Black experience.” This production is part of Ebony Road Players’ annual Loving Day observance. This is the troupe’s ninth year recognizing the milestone.

Here’s how Alabama Story is billed: “As the Civil Rights movement is flowering, a controversial children’s book about a black rabbit marrying a white rabbit stirs the passions of a segregationist State Senator and a no-nonsense State Librarian in 1959 Montgomery, Alabama. A contrasting story of childhood friends — an African-American man and a woman of white privilege, reunited in adulthood — provides private counterpoint to the public events swirling in the state capital. Political foes, star-crossed lovers, and one feisty children’s author inhabit the same page in a Deep South of the imagination that brims with humor, heartbreak and hope.”

The St. Louis Post Dispatch said this of the play: “At a time when intolerance is on the upswing and empathy is under siege, Alabama Story is just the play we need.” Learn more about the history of Alabama Story here. A dozen productions will emerge around the country in the 2023-24 season, from New Jersey to Florida to Kansas to Oregon (and even in nearby Lansing, in April 2024).

L-R, Troy Arthur Harvey, Miliana Johnson, Greg Rogers and Stephen Anthony Grey in “Alabama Story.” (Photo by Dave Kagan/Sensitography)

Todd Lewis directs a company that features Stephen Anthony Grey as Garth Williams and others; Gina Boscarino as Lily Whitfield; Noah King-Bates as Joshua Moore; Greg Rogers as Senator E.W. Higgins; Miliana Johnson as Emily Wheelock Reed; Troy Arthur Harvey as Thomas Franklin. The production team includes Danell Haigh (stage manager), Sierra Hatfield (assistant stage manager), Val Fisher (costume designer), Kat Blakeslee (set designer), Catie Marlett Dreher (lighting designer), Chris Rice (lighting design assistant). Quianna Babb is Ebony Road Players’ administrative and communications manager.

Ebony Road Players’ weekend of performances also includes a Loving Day family event (welcoming interracial couples, multiracial families, mixed race and transracially adopted people, and those with similar lived experience) 11 AM-3 PM June 10 at Grand Rapids Children’s Museum (11 Sheldon Avenue, NW) and a cast party and talkback 5:30-8 PM June 11 at Muse GR (727 Leonard St NW), following the matinee. Learn more.

Ebony Road Players performances of Alabama Story run 7:30 Friday and Saturday June 8-10 and 3 PM Sunday June 11 at Grand Rapids Public Museum, 272 Pearl St NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49504.

Learn more about the national observance of Loving Day.

Miliana Johnson as librarian Emily Reed and Greg Rogers as Senator E.W. Higgins. (Photo by Dave Kagan/Sensitography)