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ALABAMA STORY Gets Socially-Distanced Outdoor Run At Birmingham Groves, Playwright's Alma Mater

ALABAMA STORY Gets Socially-Distanced Outdoor Run At Birmingham Groves, Playwright's Alma Mater

Groves Performing Arts Company and Barebones Theatre Productions are partnering to keep theatre alive in the time of pandemic with a unique outdoor staged reading of Alabama Story, the nationally recognized social justice drama written by Birmingham Groves High School alumnus Kenneth Jones (Class of 1982).

The free performances at 7:30 PM July 30, July 31 and August 1 - with actors playing roles six feet apart from each other, with scripts in hand and minimal staging - will feature former Groves students and area educators telling the true story of a librarian with Michigan ties persecuted in the Deep South because she protected "controversial" books.

John W. Rutherford, director of the theatre program at Groves and artistic director of Barebones Theatre Productions, will direct the staging in the parking lot outside of the Groves auditorium, where audiences are encouraged to bring a chair or blanket and spread out to enjoy the humor-laced play about censorship and Civil Rights.

Rutherford, of Rochester Hills, said, "In late spring, I wondered what it might be like to produce a live theatre performance under the restrictions established by living within the realities of the Covid-19 crisis. How do we gather in person, maintain social-distancing, adhere to safety protocols and still present a theatrical performance that has rich dialogue, compelling characters and a strong storyline? Outdoors seemed the natural answer. Kenneth Jones was a guest lecturer a few years ago, talking about Alabama Story in my Groves theatre class. The relevance of his play seems especially enlightening at this time and was the ideal choice."

The cast includes Ashley Lane (Bloomfield), Chris Kuhlman (Shelby Township), Kirk Erickson (St. Clair Shores), Scotty Lockwood (Bloomfield), Jordan Davis (Southfield), Sophia Dara (Bloomfield) and stage directions will be read by Ashley Stewart-Smith (Southfield).

Kenneth Jones grew up in Beverly Hills on the street directly across from the parking lot where the play will be presented. He was theater critic for the Groves school paper, earned a journalism degree at Oakland University, went on to become theater critic for The Oakland Press and The Detroit News, and shifted into a playwriting career. He lives in New York City.

Alabama Story has enjoyed more than 30 productions around the country. The Washington Post called it a play with "national relevance." The St. Louis Post Dispatch wrote, "At a time when intolerance is on the upswing and empathy is under siege, Alabama Story is just the play we need."

Set in Montgomery, Alabama in 1959, Alabama Story mixes real and fictional people to tell a fact-inspired fable about tests of character in a time of social turbulence. Censorship, civil rights, children's literature and the freedom to read are elements in this highly theatrical six-actor tale set in "the Deep South of the imagination."

If You Wish to Attend

The free performance takes place outside under the stars in front of the Groves Auditorium doors, at the Evergreen Road entrance of Wylie E. Groves High School, 31301 Evergreen Road, Beverly Hills, Michigan 48025.

Seating is limited due to the restrictions in place from the Governor's orders. Patrons will need to RSVP in advance of attending to make sure space is still available. Use this link:

Please provide your own chair or blanket for seating.

Please plan on wearing your mask, covering your mouth and nose, when you enter and when you move around.

This is a free event, but donations are gratefully accepted.

What Is a Staged Reading?

The unique feature of a staged reading is that the actors speak directly from the text. The stage directions are read out loud to help the audience fill in the missing pieces. The power is in the words that are spoken, and actors are allowed a full range of emotions as they bring the characters from the page to life in a real and compelling manner.

Director Rutherford said, "The hope is that even when outside, at a safe distance and away from any potential harm, the magic of theatre will transcend even this current situation we find ourselves facing and allow us to experience a different kind of story."

Playwright Jones said in a statement, "It pleases me to know that my play about how people behave in times of social change is being presented at this unique time of national challenges. I wish I could see it at Groves, where I fell in loving attending shows presented by the theatre department. I left a piece of my heart there."

Learn more about the play at

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