Karen Brunner as embattled librarian Emily Reed in Oak Ridge Playhouse’s “Alabama Story.”

[Note: Due to elevator repair and the company’s commitment to accessibility, this production has been postponed to later in the 2023-23 season.] Alabama Story, the fact-inspired censorship drama about a state senator who rattles the shelves of a librarian who protects a children’s picture book, will make its Huntsville, Alabama bow at Theatre Huntsville in the 2023-24 season. Among its more than 45 previous bookings around the nation, the acclaimed six-actor play by Kenneth Jones previously enjoyed Yellowhammer State productions by Alabama Shakespeare Festival and Red Mountain Theatre Company.

At Theatre Huntsville, Alabama Story will run Oct. 6-15, 2023, as part of the Studio Theatre Series at Lowe Mill Arts and Entertainment.Gina White directs a cast that includes Sam Marsh, Gena Rawdon, Todd Bembry, Gantt Moore, Bryan White and Jenny Best.

The theater’s slate also includes Katori Hall’s The Mountaintop, Sam Shepard’s True West, and the annual Rocket City Playwrights’ Series of readings of new works. At Theatre Hunstville’s Main Stage at Von Braun Center Playhouse, expect Lauren Gunderson’s The Book of Will, Marc Camoletti’s farce Don’t Dress for Dinner, The Musical Comedy Murders of 1940 by John Bishop and the Alan Menken-Howard Ashman musical Little Shop of Horrors. Learn more about Theatre Huntsville’s 2023-24 season here.

Cynthia Collins and Don Farrell in the 2019 Actors Theatre of Indiana staging of “Alabama Story.” (Photo by Ed Stewart)

Here’s how Theatre Huntsville bills Alabama Story, which had its first development in a reading at Montgomery’s Alabama Shakespeare Festival: “A children’s book about a black rabbit marrying a white rabbit stirs the passions of a segregationist Senator and a no-nonsense Librarian in 1959 Montgomery, Alabama. A contrasting story of childhood friends — a black man and a woman of white privilege, reunited in adulthood — offers counterpoint to the events swirling in the state capital, providing humor, heartbreak and hope. Inspired by true events.”

Alabama Story will have 14 productions around the country in the 2023-24 season, including four productions in Florida, where access to books and information has been curtailed by state dictates in recent months. The play has been embraced by professional Equity and non-Equity theaters, as well as college, high school, civic and community theaters. At Theatre Huntsville, the set design is by Gina White and Dwayne Craft, the technical director is Dwayne Craft, and the stage manager is Maci Clemmons.

Corey Allen and Anna O’Donoghue in “Alabama Story” at Repertory Theatre of St. Louis in January 2019. (Photo by Jon Gitchoff)

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch wrote this about the play: “At a time when intolerance is on the upswing and empathy is under siege, Alabama Story is just the play we need.”

The Washington Post called it “an Alabama Story that has national relevance,” adding: “The play feels timely, resonating with this era’s racial tensions, the ‘she persisted’ meme and continuing controversy over the Old South’s legacy. The topicality of Alabama Story infuses a theatrical moment that feels spontaneous yet intriguingly layered.”

Alabama Story is published and licensed by Dramatists Play Service. You can get a perusal copy of the play here.

Learn more about the history of Alabama Story. 

Larry Paulsen as Garth Williams at Repertory Theatre of St. Louis. (Photo by Jon Gitchoff)

Playwright Kenneth Jones is no stranger to working Alabama theaters: Red Mountain Theatre in Birmingham produced a developmental production of his comedy Two Henrys as well as two engagements of Alabama Story (in Birmingham and Hoover); Wetumpka Depot Players recently produced his comedy Hollywood, Nebraska as part of a rolling world premiere at three theaters around the country; and Alabama Shakespeare Festival in Montgomery gave Alabama Story is first reading as part of its Southern Writers Project years before fully producing it in 2020.

Learn more about the history of “The Rabbits’ Wedding,” the 1958 children’s book that was attacked as being a vehicle to brainwash children into supporting racial integration. The book is at the center of the true story that inspired Alabama Story, which is set in what the playwright calls “the Deep South of the imagination.”