Alabama Story, the six-actor play by Kenneth Jones that sheds a light on American character through the lens of the Deep South of the Civil Rights era, will get its Alabama debut — in Birmingham in March 2018 — as part of Red Mountain Theatre Company’s first Human Rights New Works Festival.
This will be the first fully produced Alabama staging of the play that had its first blush of development in a 2013 reading in Montgomery, AL, in the Southern Writers Project of Alabama Shakespeare Festival. Following SWP, the play went on to become a finalist in the 2014 O’Neill Theater Center’s National Playwrights Conference, have its world premiere in 2015 by Pioneer Theatre Company in Utah and earn a 2016 nomination for the Steinberg/American Theatre Critics Association New Play Award. By spring 2018 will have been seen in 17 cities around the country since its premiere. (In a feature story, American Theatre magazine noted the play’s “freshly relevant themes.”)
Industry members may request a perusal copy of the script here. Since the election of President Donald Trump and with divisive Alabama political figures so much in the news in 2016-17, perusal requests have been higher than usual from professional, amateur, university and even high school theaters around the country.
Two fully-produced performances of Alabama Story March 15 & 18, 2018, will serve as the centerpiece for a Human Rights New Works Festival weekend that also includes talkbacks, panels and readings of four new plays or musicals that touch on issues of social justice, human rights, equality and how we treat each other.
Red Mountain Theatre Company, whose executive director is Keith Cromwell, characterizes the play this way: “A two-act play about a librarian who takes on segregationist state senators in the Jim Crow South when they try to ban a children’s book from Alabama Public Libraries, this story is weaved together with that of two childhood friends, one black and one white, who were separated by a traumatic incident.”
RMTC artist in residence Henry Scott will direct the fact-inspired play that mixes real and imagined characters in a highly theatrical world that the playwright calls “the Deep South of the imagination,” where Civil Rights and the freedom to read are challenged in 1959 Montgomery and beyond. In the play, Garth Williams’ real-life children’s book about a black rabbit marrying a white rabbit raises the ire of a segregationist state senator, E.W. Higgins, who targets the formidable state librarian, Emily Reed. The character of Garth Williams jumps into the story, playing multiple characters and helping to populate a drama that explores the soul of the South and the spirit of America.
The Red Mountain cast of Alabama Story includes Jennifer Price as Emily Wheelock Reed; Ron Dauphinee as Garth Williams, Birmingham native Kyle Holman as Senator E.W. Higgins, Chelsea Reynolds as Lily Whitfield, Birmingham native Brandon McCall as Joshua Moore as David Strickland as Thomas Franklin. Gina Mallisham is the stage manager. (RMTC rehearsals begin Feb. 27, the same day that rehearsals begin in Washington, DC, for a March 22-April 15 staging by Washington Stage Guild.)
The festival will appear March 15-18, 2018, on RMTC’s Cabaret Stage. The plays getting readings are Everything That’s Beautiful by Elyzabeth Gregory Wilder (read my earlier interview with the Alabama playwright); Mother Emanuel: An American Musical Play Inspired by the Lives of the Emanuel Nine by Rajendra Ramoon Maharaj, Adam Mace and Christian Lee, conceived by Rajendra Ramoon Maharaj; Sam’s Room by Dale Sampson with Trey Coates-Mitchell, music and lyrics by Caitlin Bell, Marc Campbell and Dale Sampson; and one title to be announced. Learn more about tickets here.
Matt Schicker is the Festival Director. Billy Porter is the Festival Artistic Adviser. Kyra Faith is the Festival Associate.
Kenneth Jones’ newest plays Hollywood, Nebraska and Two Henrys enjoyed development regionally in 2017.
Read more about the production history and background of Alabama Story.