On September 3, 2021 Arena Stage will be presenting “Toni Stone” by Lydia Diamond. It is based on Martha Ackmann’s full-length biography, “Curveball, The Remarkable Story of Toni Stone.” The play was commissioned by the Roundabout Theater Company and Samantha Barrie and opened off-Broadway in 2019. The Arena Stage production is directed by Pam Mackinnon and commissioned by the Roundabout Theatre Company in association with American Conservatory Theater.
The play follows the career of Toni Stone, the first woman to have played professional men’s baseball. She accomplished this as a member of the Negro Leagues during the 1940s and 1950s. She primarily played for a team called the Indianapolis Clowns, sort of that baseball league’s version of the Harlem Globetrotters. However, Stone always took her baseball playing seriously. She was a second baseman and played that position after Hank Aaron left to join the Braves. She often had to deal with hostility from her male teammates and sexism from her bosses. Before joining the Clowns, Stone played for other teams including the San Francisco Sea Lions, the New Orleans Creoles, and finally, the more well-known Kansas City Monarchs. Stone died in 1996 at the age of 75.
Santoya Fields will be playing Toni Stone. Joining her in the cast are Gilbert Lewis Bailey II as Spec/Gabby, Aldo Billlingslea as Alberga/Rufus and Deimoni Brewington as Jimmy/Father O’Keefe. Reprising their roles from the A.C.T. run are JaBen Early (King Tut/Supervisor), Kenn E. Head (Millie/Willie), Rodney Earl Jackson, Jr. (Elzie), Sean-Maurice Lynch (Stretch/Syd), and Jarrod Mims Smith (Woody/Mother).
Mackinnon’s creative team includes Choreographer Camille A. Brown, Set Designer Riccardo Hernández, Costume Designer Dede Ayite, Lighting Designer Allen Lee Hughes, and Hair and Wig Designer Cookie Jordan, with original music and Sound Design by Broken Chord..
I had an opportunity to interview actor Deimoni Brewington about his own career, Toni Stone, and baseball.
Deimoni Brewington is making his Arena Stage debut. His most recent credits include “The Adventures of Pericles” (Chesapeake Shakespeare Company), “Sleep Deprivation Chamber” (Roundhouse Theatre, Drama League Award nomination) and “Blood at the Root” (Theater Alliance, Helen Hayes Award, Best Ensemble in a Play). Deimoni’s film credits include “Protest in 8” (Theater Alliance).
Deimoni holds a BFA in Musical Theatre from Howard University.
You went to Howard University. Are you from the Baltimore-Washington Area and do you live there now?
Yes, I am a newly graduated Bison (HU!). I am from Las Vegas, NV and started living in the DMV for school. I do live here now, and I’m enjoying it.
What people in your life most influenced your decision to be an actor?
I would say my parents and my teachers/educators. My love for storytelling started in elementary school and in the church. Since then, it’s been those people in my life who guide me and support me in my craft.
Are you a baseball fan, and if so, what team to you support?
I’m starting to become a baseball fan. I wasn’t that engaged before, but these Nats’ games are definitely a great time.
What have you learned about the Negro Leagues and the history of Blacks in professional baseball from working on this show?
My primary takeaway is that the Negro Leagues were a trailblazing force for Black athletes and for the historical advancement of baseball. There’s so much hidden greatness that I didn’t even know about before this process, including the titular character. To hear and read about the stories of passionate Black athletes in a time that was restricting and oppressive is inspiring.
Do you think there will ever be another woman, Black or White, playing professional baseball on an all-male team?
I hope audiences are inspired by this glimpse in the life of Toni Stone and engage in uplifting Black women and Black stories. Even now, something tells me that the work is being done to make women playing professional baseball with men happen, and I think that would be amazing.
Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater at 1101 Sixth Street SW, Washington, DC 20024 will be presenting the dynamic story of “Toni Stone” from September 3 – October 3, 2021 on the stage of the Kreeger Theater. Go to this link for tickets.
There will be a free simulcast at Nationals Park on September 26, 2021 at 7:30 pm and tickets can be reserved here. An Audio-described performance will be presented on September 28 at 2 pm and Southwest Night is September 26 at 7:30 pm. The play is rated PG-13.
COVID safety protocols: To enter the building, you must have ID and proof of Covid-19 vaccination(s). Everyone must wear masks. For more information, click here.
A full calendar of Arena Stage productions for this season can be found at here.