Photo by Kevin Berne
Toni Stone is the name of the play at A.C.T.’s Geary Theater, and also the groundbreaking African-American woman who was the first-ever woman to play baseball professionally with men. Director Pam MacKinnon has been part of this project since its very beginning, when she was asked whether a memoir called Curveball: The Remarkable Story of Toni Stone could come to life as a play. She and producer Samantha Barrie asked the same question of playwright Lydia R. Diamond, who was sure it could.
There’s more information about the production at the A.C.T. website.
She played toward the end of the Negro Leagues era, MacKinnon says. “The owner of the Indianapolis Clowns saw Toni Stone, this phenom woman baseball player as a gate attraction, but she’s an amazing athlete in her own right, not merely an oddity. Primarily, we’re looking at her career in the early ‘50s. Toni Stone, the real person, replaced Hank Aaron, and played 2nd base for the Indianapolis Clowns.” That team had the reputation for being the baseball equivalent to the Harlem Globetrotters. But Toni Stone had real talent, and both stuck to it, and knew what her goal was. “How to know who you are, your core, and demand that the world catch up to you. I mean, that for me is the amazing thing about both the character of Toni Stone as well as the real Toni Stone. That she knew she was a baseball player, and she demanded of the world that they know that too.” Despite the setting of the 1950s, MacKinnon says her story is just as important today as it was then. “This play’s also about America in that moment. Which happens to also be America in this moment. It’s very much a play that explores issues of sexism and racism. This was a woman who, during her professional career, was featured Jet and in Ebony… And typically more African American publications, and famous. Like no doubt about famous.” This is a co-production with Arena Stage, and is scheduled to run through the 29th of March.