The Tampa premiere cast of “Alabama Story,” L-R: Ashton Cote, Lisa Negron, Ron Nummi (sitting), Candace Del Rio, Theron (T.R.) Butler and Victor Carr. 

Florida’s Powerstories Theatre, the nonprofit professional theater devoted to “true stories to open minds and hearts and inspire action worldwide,” will present the Tampa premiere of Kenneth Jones’ fact-based censorship drama Alabama Story January 11-21, 2024, at the Straz Center’s Shimberg Playhouse. The production coincides with a time of heated debate about what books and curricula are appropriate for libraries and young minds in the Sunshine State.

Sheri Whittington directs a company that includes Ron Nummi, Candace Del Rio, Theron (T.R.) Butler, Victor Carr, Lisa Negron and Ashton Cote. The production team includes Brianna Brand (stage manager), Chris Corley (technical director), Angelina Martinez (costumes), Ami Sallee (costumes assistant), Omar Negron (props). Get ticket information for the Tampa run here.

Alabama Story, published and licensed by Dramatists Play Service, has been seen in more than 60 cities, including five in Florida in the current 2023-24 season. A separate production by Theatre Jacksonville will play March 8-24.

Veteran actor Ron Nummi plays real-life children’s book author Garth Williams.

Here’s how Powerstories bills the play: “Set in 1959, Montgomery, Alabama Story centers on a State Librarian who faces backlash for adding to the library shelves a children’s book depicting a black rabbit and a white rabbit who marry. As the Civil Rights movement brews, the book’s perceived message of racial integration and equality sparks the outrage of a powerful and determined segregationist State Senator. A contrasting story involves childhood friends — an African American man and a white woman — reunited in adulthood, forming a boundary-breaking friendship. The play features political foes, star-crossed lovers, and a feisty children’s author, all inhabiting a Deep South filled with humor, heartbreak and hope.”

Director Whittington said in a statement, “Alabama Story is a prime example of history repeating itself. The playwright has brought us this story about a relatively unknown hero, Emily Wheelock Reed, the state librarian. She fought the state for a children’s book to stay on the shelves of Alabama libraries. Her bravery and courage are truly inspirational as we face the same issues more than sixty years later.”

Theron (T.R.) Butler plays Civil Rights worker Joshua Moore in the Tampa premiere.

Powerstories Theatre founder Fran Powers stated, “It is an honor to continue presenting historical stories that mirror today’s struggles. We know Alabama Story will engage our audiences to learn more about the world around them and to take action.”

Playwright Kenneth Jones characterizes Alabama Story as an entertainment, “a mashup of my favorite kinds of plays — political thriller, memory play, historical drama, romance, comedy, and more.  It’s not written to be medicine, but it should feel like a tonic.”

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch billed the play as “exuberant” and “timely,” adding, “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.