Alexandria's American Puppetry Association is presenting a new version of "Babes in Toyland" as its Christmas offering this year. The production will run through Jan. 6.

The play was adapted by Duane Bowers from an original 1903 Victor Herbert script.

Bowers has "sort of become our playwright in residence," said Allan Stevens, director of the company.

This holiday offering is one of six original shows adapted from other works to be presented this year during the Alexandria Puppeteers' first season in Old Town's Torpedo Factory. The Puppetry Association is three years old.

"Rapunzel" was presented earlier this year and "Sleeping Beauty " will be offered in the spring. Both scripts were written by Bowers, an Alexandrian who has been in the professional theater for four years, the last two with Stevens' puppet company.

Stevens has been a professional puppeteer since 1969, when he started his own resident company at the Smithsonian Institution.

Six years later, Stevens and his company left the Smithsonian and moved into Alexandria's old Richmond movie theater and founded the nonprofit American Puppetry Association. That theater was sold last year and Stevens moved to the Torpedo Factory, sharing space there with the Drama Lab.

Stevens explains that indefinite plans for the the Torpedo Factory will probably not result another move for his company.

"At this point, it is our understanding that everything now located in the two buildings will be put into the one back building where were we expect to go," he said. But the City council has made no official decision yet, he added.

The third member of the puppet company, Dale Hancock, works with Stevens and Bowers, performing behind the scenes in the half dozen or so puppet productions offered each season. Hancock also lives in Alexandria where he graduated from George Washington High School.

The three-member American Puppetry Association recently received a $2,500 grant from the the Virginia Commission for the Arts. "It's a general projects grant which will go into salaries and upkeep of the theater," Stevens said.

Upcoming shows scheduled by Stevens and company include "Sleeping Beauty" in January, "Robin Hood" in March, "Tales of Brer Rabbit" in May, "The Princess and the Pea" in July and a children's puppet show about Election-year activities in September.

"Babes in Toyland" will be shown through Jan. 6 at Torpedo Factory, 101 N. Union Street (second floor). Performances are Wednesdays through Fridays, 10 a.m. and 11:30 p.m., and Sundays, 2 p.m. and 3:30 p.m.

Tickets are $2 per person. Group rates are available. Call 549-0787 for more information.