MILWAUKEE — As we celebrate Black History Month, we learn about Toni Stone, a woman whose life was made into a play.
"It is probably one of the greatest plays I've ever done (this) far in my career," Dimonte Henning says.
Henning, a Milwaukee native, is an actor in the play, Toni Stone.
"For me, it is a great, great, great release because number one, a lot of people don't know who Toni Stone is," Henning says.
Stone played in the Negro Leagues and is credited as the first woman to ever play a regular role on a major league professional team.
"We cover the good and the bad of Toni Stone's life," Henning says. "She was the first woman to play in the Negro Leagues. So you can just imagine, some of the men who may have, who were insecure because they have this woman playing, and they're like no, I need to protect my job."
With the production recently held at the Milwaukee Repertory Theater, Henning adds that the Negro Leagues would sometimes play three games a day, including night games a full five years before Major League Baseball (MLB) did. Something MLB later would adopt.
Stone actually replaced Hank Aaron with the Indianapolis Clowns when he went to Eau Claire to play in the Milwaukee Braves minor leagues, and has another Wisconsin connection.
"Her second to last game was played here in Milwaukee before she retired from the Negro Leagues, which I find to be just fascinating," Henning says.
Stone's life was difficult, on and off the field.
"They weren't allowed to sleep in certain hotels," Henning says. "They weren't allowed to eat at certain places. So, just adding that other dynamic on top of being a woman in that world, in this time. I just imagine that it had to been very difficult."
Henning attended the Milwaukee School of the Arts and UW-Milwaukee. He hopes this play educates city residents.
"We are exposing painful truths of American history," Henning says. "While at the same time, offering up a new way to be a part of history, a new way to engage in dialogue when it comes to race, when it comes to America's history."
Henning enjoys every aspect, including performing in front of real people.
"Back in front of a live audience since the pandemic," Henning says. "And you don't know what you have until it's gone, and so it is a treat to hear laughter, to hear people crying, to hear people responding to the show."
Learn more about Toni Stone at the Milwaukee Rep by clicking here.