Greta Lambert and William Parry square off in the world premiere of “Alabama Story” in 2015. (Photo by Alex Weisman)

Iowa Stage Theatre Company, the resident professional theater in Des Moines, has added the six-actor drama Alabama Story by Kenneth Jones to its 2018-19 Scriptease series of concert readings. Wayne Kischer directs the fact-inspired social-justice play about a librarian persecuted in the Jim Crow South for protecting books perceived as hostile to segregation. The free performance is 7 PM Dec. 18.

The year 2019 marks the 60th anniversary of the real events dramatized in the play.  In 1959, Alabama state librarian Emily Wheelock Reed stood up to Sen. E.O. Eddins (renamed E.W. Higgins in the drama) when he suggested that a children’s picture book be burned. The book, “The Rabbits’ Wedding” by Garth Williams, was about a rabbit with black fur marrying a rabbit with white fur.

The Washington Post said that Alabama Story “has national relevance” in 2018. It premiered in 2015 in a staging by Pioneer Theatre Company in Salt Lake City and has enjoyed more than 20 presentations — full productions as well as concert readings — around the country. (Repertory Theatre of St. Louis presents the play Jan. 2-27, 2019, under the direction of Paul Mason Barnes.) Ask for a perusal copy and get performance rights information here.

Katherine Keberlein and Byron Glenn Willis in “Alabama Story” at Peninsula Players Theatre in 2016.

Here’s how Iowa Stage bills Alabama Story: “A gentle children’s book with an apparent hidden message stirs the passions of a segregationist State Senator and a no-nonsense State Librarian in 1959 Montgomery, Alabama, just as the civil rights movement is flowering. A contrasting story of childhood friends — an African-American man and a woman of white privilege, reunited in adulthood in Montgomery that same year — provides private counterpoint to the public events of the play.”

The Dec. 18 performance of Alabama Story is free, with donations accepted. It will play Des Moines Social Club’s Kum & Go Theater.

The upcoming Iowa Stage Scriptease series also includes readings of:

Recompense by Karen Schaeffer February 26, 2019
Old friends gather to celebrate the success of one of their own, but secrets, jealousy and revenge give the evening a vicious turn. From the acclaimed Des Moines author of Girls Weekend and Choices.

Sweat by Lynn Nottage April 9, 2019
Filled with warm humor and tremendous heart, Sweat tells the story of a group of friends who have spent their lives sharing drinks, secrets, and laughs while working together on the factory floor. But when layoffs and picket lines begin to chip away at their trust, the friends find themselves pitted against each other in a heart-wrenching fight to stay afloat. Winner of 2017 Pulitzer Prize

The cover of the controversial book at the center of “Alabama Story.”

The Insane Root by Julia Holleman May 14, 2019
A modern adaptation of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Holleman’s The Insane Root brings modern freshness to the verse while setting the action in a brutally war-torn region we might recognize from the news. Smart and incisive, this is the work of a young talent who sadly passed away before it could be staged.

Learn more about the current mainstage season and history of Iowa Stage Theatre Company, a troupe formed in 2017 from the merger of Repertory Theatre of Iowa and StageWest Theatre Company.