South Camden Theatre Company gives Alabama Story its New Jersey premiere Sept. 15-Oct. 1, 2023. Kenneth Jones’ play based on the true story the persecuted state librarian of Alabama is getting 10 productions around the country in fall 2023, a time when librarians and libraries are under fire from conservatives who want to see access to books policed and restricted.
The day before the Camden, NJ, opening night, it was widely reported that Alabama Public Library Service — which figures prominently in the play, set in 1959 — would be creating a list of “controversial” books from complaints by parents and others.
In the play, librarian Emily Reed is under fire for protecting a children’s picture book called “The Rabbits’ Wedding,” about a white rabbit marrying a black rabbit. The book by famous illustrator Garth Williams (“Stuart Little,” “Charlotte’s Web,” the “Little House” series), was seen as promoting the idea of racial integration. The battle between Reed and a state senator puts both of their worlds at risk.
Respected Philly actress-director Connie Norwood, an SCTC veteran, directs a cast that features Anne Allen as Emily Wheelock Reed; Eric Rupp as Garth Williams and others; Gene Dale as Senator E.W. Higgins; Emily-Grace Murray as Lily Whitfield; Maurice Tucker as Joshua Moore; Adam Brooks as Thomas Franklin. August Fen DeLuca is stage Manager, Don Allen is costume designer; Pam Staley is propmaster; Andrew Cowles is lighting designer; Meghan Burkins is dialect coach; Robert Bingaman is scenic designer and acting production manager. Dawn M. Varava is SCTC’s artistic director.
Here’s how South Camden Theatre Company bills Alabama Story, which is published and licensed through Dramatists Play Service: “As the Civil Rights movement is brewing, 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. Meanwhile, the story of two childhood friends — an African-American man and a woman of white privilege, reunited in adulthood — provides a 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 playwright will appear at a post-show talkback Sept. 17 following the matinee. For tickets and information about the SCTC run, click here.
The production is also a title in the Philadelphia Fringe Festival. (Camden is directly across the Delaware River from Philly.)
South Camden Theatre Company produces in the intimate 400 Waterfront South Theatre, 400 Jasper Street in Camden, NJ.