The Southeastern premiere of Alabama Story by Kenneth Jones will be presented by the Clarence Brown Theatre, the resident Equity company of the University of Tennessee in Knoxville in January 2018. Kate Buckley will direct the social-justice drama set in “the Deep South of the imagination” and charting the real-life conflict between a fierce “lady librarian” and a segregationist state senator who took issue with her book choices.
The 2017-18 Clarence Brown season was announced on March 19. Alabama Story — about an uproar over a children’s book some people think includes a hidden political message — will run Jan. 31-Feb. 18, 2018, on the Clarence Brown mainstage.
The play, which will get at least five regional productions in the coming year, was a 2016 nominee for the Steinberg/American Theatre Critics Association New Play Award and a 2014 Finalist in the O’Neill National Playwrights Conference. Request a perusal copy of the script.
Set in Montgomery in 1959, the six-actor Alabama Story weaves into the library tale a thematically relevant second story of former childhood friends — one black, one white — who reunite that same year to revisit old wounds. The play is friskily narrated by children’s book author and illustrator Garth Williams, whose 1958 book “The Rabbits’ Wedding” created a firestorm in Alabama and other Southern states. The picture book, intended for children under the age of seven, shows the marriage between a black rabbit and a white rabbit.
Alabama Story premiered at Pioneer Theatre Company in Salt Lake City in 2015 following development by Alabama Shakespeare Festival, Pioneer and Off-Broadway’s TACT/The Actors Company Theatre. By spring 2018, it will have been produced by at least 10 theaters around the country since its first appearance. More productions — in the Midwest, Deep South, New England, Western Massachusetts and beyond — will be announced for the 2017-18 season in the coming weeks as theaters officially reveal their slates.
Performances of the Tennessee premiere will play the Clarence Brown mainstage. Learn more about director Kate Buckley. Casting and additional creative team will be announced later. Calvin MacLean is Clarence Brown’s producing artistic director and head of UT’s theater department.
The 2017-18 season of the Clarence Brown also includes Rick Elice’s Peter and the Starcatcher; Greg Kotis and Mark Hollmann’s musical Urinetown; A Christmas Carol, adapted by Edward Morgan and Joseph Hanreddy; Three Sisters, in a new version by Libby Appel; Dream of the Burning Boy by David West Read; Craig Lucas’ Blue Window; and a new commission, the strangers, by Christopher Oscar Pena. The latter is billed as a “modern response” to Thornton Wilder’s Our Town and will feature UT MFA students under the direction of UT theater professor John Sipes.
Learn more about the history and mission of Clarence Brown Theatre, the LORT company that operates three venues in Knoxville, TN.