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South Camden Theatre Company presents "Alabama Story"

originally published: 08/09/2023

South Camden Theatre Company presents "Alabama Story"

(CAMDEN, NJ) --  South Camden Theatre Company presents the New Jersey and Regional premiere of Alabama Story by Kenneth Jones, weekends from September 15 through October 1, 2023. This is a play based on a true story about book banning, a librarian, a state senator, and black and white bunnies. The production is directed by Connie Norwood.

In 1959, Emily Wheelock Reed was the State Librarian of Alabama who was challenged by a segregationist politician. Alabama State Senator E.O. Eddins demanded that a children’s picture book — Garth Williams’ “The Rabbits’ Wedding,” about a rabbit with black fur marrying a rabbit with white fur — be purged from the shelves of Alabama libraries on the grounds that it promoted racial integration. This was absolutely ridiculous. Unfortunately, book banning is once again crippling our nation's libraries. Librarians are working tirelessly to have all books available for everyone to read. This play’s plot could have been pulled from the news headlines from the past two and one-half years. Their battle is as real today as it was in 1959.

Kenneth Jones, the playwright stated, “I didn’t want to write a docudrama that told the strict truth, but to create a collage of a play that was a mashup of theatrical forms. I love telling the artistic truth. I say that the play is set in 'the Deep South of the imagination.' So, what you will experience is a political thriller, a workplace comedy, a courtroom drama, a romance, a history play, and more.”

Ms. Norwood is excited to take the helm of South Camden Theatre’s production of Alabama Story. She was selected to direct this play by Artistic Director Dawn Varava, “because of her unique ability to tell complex stories and to bring the play's characters to life on our stage.”

The cast selection was made from a large group of actor auditions. Anne Allen plays the “real-life” librarian, Emily Wheelock Reed. Eric Rupp plays Garth Williams, the writer/illustrator of “The Rabbit’s Wedding” and others. Gene Dale plays Senator E.W. Higgins, the segregationist senator. Emily-Grace Murphy plays Lily, a white woman of privilege, opposite Maurice Tucker as Joshua Moore, an upwardly mobile middle-class African American. Adam Brooks appears as Thomas Franklin, Emily Reed’s reference librarian.

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Tickets are available for purchase online. General admission is $20. There is a Camden Resident ticket available for $5, thanks to a grant from Holman Enterprises.

Kenneth Jones also commented on his research for the play. “Emily Reed’s story was widely documented in newspapers and magazines at the time, so a lot of source material existed, allowing me to draw from and expand upon actual language and public personalities. In fact, the play’s most outrageous proclamations from the bullying politician (renamed Senator Higgins) are direct quotes from the man who used to be known as 'Big Ed.' And when I read Emily’s statement that 'the free flow of information is the best means to solve the problems of the South, the nation and the world,' I was inspired by the grandeur and universality of the sentence: This is a story about access, a basic human right. Little did I know at the time that the words 'free flow of information' make up one of the foundational tenets of librarianship itself.”

Kenneth continued about his hopes for those who see Alabama Story, “Mostly, I hope that Alabama Story sparks a memory of a beloved book, the person who gave it to you and the day that you realized that a “turning of the page” — whether moving forward in a book or in your personal evolution — could be both terrifying and wonderful. Maybe the play will also be a reminder that no matter what our differences, on some level, we all share the same story. “

You can meet Kenneth Jones, the playwright for Alabama Story, immediately after the Sunday, September 17, 2:00pm matinee. Kenneth will be attending and will take questions along with the cast about his play during a talk-back.

The theatre company hopes that you joing them in learning about the importance of “the free flow of information”  in our lives today. Books are good. Book banning is bad!

Opening in November, South Camden Theatre Company is producing the Broadway Hit, “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.15-year-old Christopher has an extraordinary brain: He is exceptional at mathematics but ill-equipped to interpret everyday life. He has never ventured alone beyond the end of his road, detests being touched, and distrusts strangers. Now it is 7 minutes after midnight, and Christopher stands beside his neighbor’s dead dog, Wellington, who has been speared with a garden fork. Finding himself under suspicion, Christopher is determined to solve the mystery of who murdered Wellington, and he carefully records each fact of the crime. But his detective work, forbidden by his father, takes him on a thrilling journey that upturns his world. Mark your calendar to attend this 2015 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Play, the 2015 Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding New Broadway Play, and the 2015 Tony Award for Best Play when it opens at South Camden Theatre Company on November 3, 2023. 

The Waterfront South Theatre, home to South Camden Theatre Company, is a true gem in the newly designated Waterfront South arts district of Camden. It is the first free-standing theatre built in Camden in more than 100 years for theatre and is an intimate theatre space with room for 96 guests per performance. South Camden Theatre and its Waterfront South Theatre is just one block past the intersection at Broadway and Ferry Avenue on Jasper Street/Michael Doyle Lane.  

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South Camden Theatre Company is proud to call Camden home. When the company was founded in 2005, performances were held in the basement theatre of the Sacred Heart Church. We’re now the proud owners of The Waterfront South Theatre, the first, free-standing theatre built for live theatre in Camden in more than 100 years.

The Waterfront South neighborhood is home to a growing arts community. Our arts neighbors now include Camden FireWorks, artist studio spaces, and gallery, The Nick Virgilio Writer’s House, Mighty Writers, Bee Still Studios, The Camden Shipyard & Maritime Museum, Camden Boat Works, and the Center For Environmental Transformation, along with The Heart of Camden, and The Sacred Heart Church.

South Camden Theatre Company was selected by PNC Bank to participate in PNC Arts Alive. This is a very prestigious grant award. Just over 40 organizations in the Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey region were selected for bold thinking around increasing arts access and engagement. “We’ve long recognized just how vital the arts and cultural sector is to our community. The PNC team is once again excited to support the arts and cultural organizations visual and performing arts in the Delaware Valley,” said Joe Meterchick, PNC regional president for Philadelphia, Delaware, and Southern New Jersey. “Arts and culture strengthen the local economy and have the power to bring people together. As we look forward to resuming everyday activities, we invite our neighbors to join us and be a part of art.” Read more here: Their shows are also sponsored in part by Holman Enterprise Group, Camden County Cultural & Heritage Commission at Camden County College, and Subaru. 




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