Written by Kenneth Jones
Directed by Karen Azenberg
Featuring: Corey Allen, Seth Andrew Bridges, Torsten Hillhouse, Bill Nabel, Lesley Shires, and Kay Walbye

Wednesday June 18th at 7PM
Thursday June 19th at 7PM


A children’s picture book about a white rabbit marrying a black rabbit stirs the passions of a segregationist senator and a librarian in 1959 Montgomery, just as the Civil Rights movement is flowering. Inspired by true events, Alabama Story puts co-workers, star-crossed lovers and one frisky children’s author on the same page to conjure a Deep South of the imagination.

  • Torsten Hillhouse, Seth Andrew Bridges, and Kay Walbye in ALABAMA STORY by Kenneth Jones, June 18th and 19th, 2014.


Playwrights are always on the lookout for ideas for their next play. Strong characters and richly contrasting conflicts rarely just fall into my lap, but that’s exactly what happened when I opened the newspaper and read the obituary of a retired librarian named Emily Wheelock Reed.

In 1959, Reed was director of Alabama Public Library Service in Montgomery, serving as the state’s chief librarian. A local segregationist newspaper objected to a children’s book in the library’s holdings, and the concern caught the ear of a pro-segregation state senator named E.O. Eddins. The picture book, “The Rabbits’ Wedding” by Garth Williams, portrays the frolicsome friendship and gentle marriage between a white rabbit and a black rabbit. The senator wanted the book taken off of the shelves; the librarian refused. Opposites were immediately evident in this slice of American history, and instantly I recognized the building blocks for a play.I knew very early in the process that I didn’t want to write a dry docudrama.

Taking a cue from children’s literature and children’s theatre, I sought ways for the story to leap off of the page and shake up the theatregoer’s imagination while staying true to the essence of the history. I started by placing Garth Williams himself as narrator (and frisky utility player in other roles). I commingled fictional characters with real people and gave them shared history in a time of extraordinary social change. Characters occasionally “pop up” to address the audience directly in a highly theatrical drama about tests of character in what I call “the Deep South of the Imagination.”

Alabama itself, and its complex history as both the cradle of the Confederacy and the crucible of the Civil Rights movement, is very much present in the play that I ended up calling Alabama Story. Research trips to Emily’s very workplace (the current Alabama State Archive Building) and the senator’s domain (the State Capitol and his hometown of Demopolis), as well as interviews with Montgomery historians and residents, helped inform my threading of a tapestry of characters, ideas and theatrical styles. The play’s ambitious weave echoes the intricacy of the Southern — and, I hope, universal — experience that was the uneasy march of personal and political progress in the 20th century.

The play touches on censorship, civil rights, segregation, access to information, the sting of memory, freedom to read, the depth of friendship and — always — a passion for books. Perhaps all that you need to know about Alabama Story is contained in a few lines in the play’s prologue, in which Williams introduces the main characters, played by a cast of six.

“This is a story about books…a story of children…a story of parents…the story of a story…a story within a story…a children’s story…a love story…a local story…a Southern story…an Alabama story. And, somewhere between the lines, a true story.”


KENNETH JONES (Playwright) is a playwright, librettist, lyricist and journalist. Alabama Story is a 2014 finalist for the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center’s National Playwrights Conference. It will receive its world premiere in January 2015 at Pioneer Theatre Company in Salt Lake City. It was first read in Alabama Shakespeare Festival’s 2013 Southern Writers’ Project Festival of New Plays in May 2013, followed by reading in April 2014 as part of Pioneer’s inaugural Play-By-Play new works series. Karen Azenberg directed each leg of its development and will stage the premiere. Jones’ O. Henry-inspired musical Voice of the City (with music by Elaine Chelton) was presented in The York Theatre Company’s Developmental Reading Series Off-Broadway, followed by a workshop produced by The Human Race Theatre Company in Dayton, OH. His satiric musical comedy Naughty/Nice, written with composer Gerald Stockstill, was seen in developmental and charitable concert readings in Manhattan, including a 2013 staging at Caroline’s On Broadway. It was a semi-finalist in the National Alliance for Musical Theatre’s Festival of New Musicals. For their theatre songs, Stockstill & Jones are the recipients of the 2010 Dottie Burman Songwriting Award from the Manhattan Association of Cabarets and Clubs (MAC). He is a member of the Dramatists Guild, BMI and the advanced BMI-Lehman Engel Musical Theatre Workshop. Between 1998 and 2013 he was a leading writer and editor at Visit