By Stephen Baldwin, RealWV
Season 56 at Greenbrier Valley Theatre (GVT) began last weekend with the opening of “Alabama Story.” It’s based on a series of true events from Alabama in the 1950s and bears a striking resemblance to modern events.
In 1958, Garth Williams (also known for his work on Charlotte’s Web & Little House on the Prairie) wrote a children’s book called The Rabbits’ Wedding. It tells the tale of two rabbits living in the forest, falling in love, and eventually deciding to marry.
A powerful Alabama State Senator sought to ban the book, because one rabbit was white and one was black. He believed it to be a piece of political propaganda which had no place in schools. The play tells the story of the senator’s efforts to ban the book when he comes up against the state librarian, who was not an Alabama native and believed staunchly in freedom of speech.
According to the American Library Association, there were more proposed book bans in the United States in 2022 than ever before. Because this is a relevant issue still today, GVT believes it will resonate with folks.
“The play is about preservation more than anything,” says Matt Campbell, Executive Director at GVT. “Our job (at GVT) is to share stories that continually seek to open eyes.”
Pulling double duty, Campbell plays the book-banning senator in Alabama Story. “The senator thinks he is preserving a way of life that’s important to him. The librarian is trying to preserve freedom of speech.”
“Alabama Story is as much a story about the 1950s as it is about today,” says Jenna Sulecki, Director of the play. “More than censorship or civil rights, the play is about the preservation of values and the importance of the free exchange of information that allows us to make informed decisions about which values ought to be preserved.”
The show stars actors John Little, Amy Baldwin, Matthew Scott Campbell, Kelsey Waltermire, Henian Boone, and Ian Kramer. Jenna Sulecki directs. The production features scenic design by Richard Crowell, costume design by Jenna Fawn Brown, and lighting design by E. Tonry Lathroum. Sound design is by Abigail Coppock, with prop design by Dani Rust. Elizabeth Salisch serves as the Production Stage Manager assisted by Sydnei Williams.
Alabama Story runs this Thursday-Sunday. Tickets are $32 for general seating, $29 for senior citizens age 60 and above, and $20 for students. For more information on tickets, shows, and the organization’s history, visit the theatre’s website: www.gvtheatre.org or call the box office at (304) 645-3838.