SteppingStone Theatre is using its 25th season to retell one of its most popular shows. Over the years, the St. Paul youth theater has produced two different scripts based on the true story of Ruby Bridges, the first black first-grader to integrate an all-white elementary school in New Orleans in 1960.
"But we have never been quite satisfied with how we're telling the story," said managing director Ross Willits. "We thought, 'Now is the time to try to get Ruby right' "
The theater's 2012-13 season also brings Tom Sawyer to the stage, along with several revivals, including a play that incorporates Taiko drumming and a comic retelling of "The Three Little Pigs" told from the point of view of the wolf.
"Ruby! The Story of Ruby Bridges" (Feb. 1-24) will give the story more historical context than previous versions, Willits said. Gary Rue, who has written music for several dozen SteppingStone shows, will write the songs. The script is being written by local playwright Christina Ham, who has received national recognition for her ability to breathe life into the civil rights movement. Her script for "Four Little Girls: Birmingham 1963," which SteppingStone produced last year, was recently published by Dramatic Publishing.
The season kicks off with another new work, an adaptation of Mark Twain's "Adventures of Tom Sawyer" (Oct. 19-Nov. 4), from local playwright Mark Jensen, also with music by Rue.
The season also includes "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever" (Nov. 30-Dec. 23) by Barbara Robinson, now in its 21st year at SteppingStone.
The Irish band Two Tap Trio and students from O'Shea Irish Dance will take over the stage for the second year to perform a showcase called "Kickin' It Irish" (March 8-17).
The theater is also bringing back two popular productions. "Heartbeat of the Drum" by Sarah Dejoras, with music by Ochen Kaylen (April 26-May 19, 2013), tells the story of a fishing village under attack that is saved when a girl bucks tradition and joins the boys to hit the big drums. SteppingStone uses almost exclusively child actors in all its productions, and they will get a crash course in Taiko drumming during rehearsals.
The season closes with an adaptation of Jon Scieszka's book "The True Story of the Three Little Pigs (& the Frog Prince Continued)" (July 13-Aug. 4, 2013). In this fairytale twist, adapted by Kent Stephens with music by Rue, Alexander T. Wolf claims he was really trying to borrow cups of sugar from his porcine neighbors when he happened to sneeze and blow their houses down.
Five years ago, SteppingStone moved into a renovated church building in the Summit-University neighborhood. Almost immediately, the theater faced the challenge of growing its weekend family audience to replace a drop in weekday school group attendance following school budget cuts. Last year, they drew an audience of 40,000.
Maja Beckstrom can be reached at 651-228-5295.
Group tickets are available for $7.50 per seat. Individual tickets go on sale May 1 for $15 to $12, with discounts for multiple shows.
SteppingStone is at 55 Victoria Street N., St. Paul; 651-225-9265 or steppingstonetheatre.org.