Upon first seeing Alabama Story staged at a theatre in San Jose little more than a year ago, Colleen McGoff Dean immediately knew she wanted to bring the play to Surrey, in another Naked Stage production.
Kenneth Jones’ six-actor script is a good fit for the company, which does “reader’s theatre” stagings at Newton Cultural Centre several times a year.
Alabama Story holds a mirror to real-life events of 60 years ago, when a children’s book called The Rabbits’ Wedding caused controversy for its depiction of a white rabbit marrying a black one.
The thought-provoking play, which debuted in 2015, touches on civil rights and censorship issues. Jones bills the play as “a humour-laced social-justice drama that’s a sort of vest-pocket cousin to To Kill a Mockingbird.”
“You may rightly ask how a story set in 1959 Montgomery, Alabama, is relevant to a 2019 B.C. audience,” says South Surrey’s McGoff Dean, who directs the play in Newton. “In many ways, the issues in this story, set 60 years ago, are issues that, sadly, we are still addressing today: inclusion, equality, freedom of expression and openness to new ideas. And, there are still those in public office who, like Senator Higgins, are threatened by these ideas and construct obstacles made of fear.”
In Alabama Story, the segregationist senator demands the book be removed from all library shelves because he feels it promotes interracial marriage. He spars with the state librarian on the issue, among other defenders of the published work, and a parallel story involves a reunion of childhood friends – a black man and a white woman.
In Newton from March 22 to 24, the production stars Jennifer Price (as Lily), Michael Paulse (Joshua, Lily’s old friend), Nancy Painter (Emily, the state librarian), George Stone (Senator Higgins), Croy Jenkins (Thomas, the librarian’s assistant) and Vaughn Williams (as book author Garth Williams).
As with other Naked Stage shows, only scripts, chairs and a lit stage are used by the actors – no costumes or sets. “We tell people it isn’t about fancy lighting, there are no costumes, there is no set, and people wonder, ‘Well, what is it?’” related McGoff Dean in an interview last March. “I tell them it’s character development, and it’s the embodiment of those characters by the actors, but it’s also more theatre of the mind.”
More show details are posted at nakedstage.net, and tickets ($15 plus fees) can be purchased in advance at brownpapertickets.com. Show times are 7:30 on both March 22 and 23, and at 2 p.m. on Sunday, March 24.