Lifestyle

D.C.’s Arena Stage Poised to Present Story of Unsung Heroine Toni Stone

Play Sheds Light on First Woman to Play Baseball in Negro Leagues

Do you know the story behind the life and achievements of Toni Stone?

If you don’t, you will soon have a golden opportunity to learn about one of America’s unsung heroines and trailblazers at the Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater.

Beginning Thursday, Sept. 3, the company will present “Toni Stone,” written by Arena alumna resident playwright Lydia R. Diamond. Set in the 1950s, Stone served as the first woman to play baseball in the Negro Leagues, also making her the first woman to play in a professional men’s league.

Against incredible odds, she blazed a path in the male-dominated sports world, shattering expectations and creating her own set of rules. The uplifting and inspiring production marks the return of live productions to the Mead Center.

Award-winning playwright Diamond tells the dynamic story of Stone’s journey of perseverance and resilience in doing what she loved the most – playing baseball.

Directed by Pam MacKinnon, “Toni Stone” runs through Sunday, Oct. 3.

“What better way to come roaring back in the Nation’s Capital than with a story of perseverance and overcoming the odds,” said Artistic Director Molly Smith. “Lydia R. Diamond has crafted an inspirational play about Toni Stone, the first woman to play professional baseball in a men’s league. Pam MacKinnon directs phenomenal performances telling this vital story about a woman who was determined to play baseball at the highest level. In December 2020, the Negro Leagues were officially recognized as a Major League, at long last, and Arena is excited to amplify Toni’s hidden history.”

Cast members include: JaBen Early, Kenn E. Head, Rodney Earl Jackson, Jr., Sean-Maurice Lynch and Jarrod Mims Smith. Actors joining the cast and making their Arena Stage debuts include: Gilbert L. Bailey II, Aldo Billingslea and Santoya Fields.

The play’s based on the novel “Curveball, The Remarkable Story of Toni Stone” by Martha Ackmann. It received its world premiere in May 2019 at Roundabout Theatre Company.

For the director, the play has given significant meaning to her life and career.

“Toni Stone’s story has been a part of my life for almost a decade,” MacKinnon said. “Throughout my career my favorite projects have been those I get to revisit. I am grateful that this production, which closed on its opening night at American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco on March 11, 2020, due to the pandemic, will now mark Arena Stage‘s return to in-person theater. Lydia Diamond‘s play and this company of committed actors and designers take seriously the charge to share Toni’s story and the story of the Negro Leagues. Black Lives Matter.”

For tickets and more information, visit www.arenastage.org.

For a special one-day-only event on Sunday, September 26, “Toni Stone” will be simulcast to the center field video board in Nationals Park.

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