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From the Stage Manager's Clipboard

06 Oct 2018 1:35 PM | Tara Branham

Toni Stone by Lydia R. Diamond

09/17/2018 Run Time: 02:03:27

Lydia R. Diamond is kind of a huge name in Chicago. This I knew, but didn’t understand, until after our first reading. I’m a big fan of historical fiction. It’s the best way to retell history, in my opinion, and gives you a fuller version of the real person inside the historical figure. Granted, the writer fills in some of the blanks, but isn’t this what we do in our minds anyway, dear reader?

Smart, unequivocal, hilarious– Toni Stone is poetry, through and through. In fact, it was channeling W.E.B Du Bois to me, even before a character quoted him directly. But enough of my thoughts, here’s the casts original responses:

“Beautiful constant image of reaching”

“Smooth talking”

“Redefining gender roles”

“The character’s own their own narrative”

Toni is one of the most engaging characters I’ve ever read. Too smart for her own good, she constantly required the help of other character’s to reign her in and remind her that life doesn’t follow the same rules as baseball (or any at all, really), and that she can’t just say aloud all of her astute observations. The characters of Millie (her close friend) and Alberga (her eventual husband) are ever present in Toni’s mind, and we get to observe Toni recalling advice they’ve given her, in real time, when she needs it.  Cast member Xavier Roe said of Toni that “when she lets us into her world, we find it’s the most human of any character’s. She speaks to doubts, the past, checking in with people who aren’t even there. You get to see her, really see her.” Frankly, I couldn’t have said it better myself.

The audience loved it. I know this because I often had to wait what seemed like a very long time to read the next stage direction, and sometimes, stutter nervously when I said it too early, as laughs would creep up after I thought they were done. From what I could hear of post reading conversations, the actors and show were well praised.

With a run time of about two hours and three minutes, the audience is given light on how much time Toni had to spend playing a game. Call it life, call it baseball, call it racism, call it love, call it reaching. Our cast was truly a joy to work with, and if you did not get the chance to see them in our reading, I implore you to find out what they’re working on and check it out. Furthermore, if you’re in New York, or going, Toni Stone will be going up at Roundabout Theatre with Uzo Aduba ("Orange Is the New Black," Godspell, The Wiz) as Toni, more details TBD.

Here’s photographic evidence of me wondering if I’m cool enough to approach these people and their stunning energy:

About "From the Stage Manager's Clipboard"

As a playwright and director, the stage management perspective lends itself to an education I never got in school or through reading. I get to be the observer, while keeping matters organized, running smoothly--I like systems that work. So, it was no surprise that I’ve found myself at Chicago Dramatists as the Producing & Stage Management Intern. My name is Sofia Fey and I am an artist of many mediums. I went to school for directing and playwriting and just moved to Chicago in August. Primarily I write poetry, plays, short films, cartoons, and short stories. It's helpful for me to connect all the dots and remind myself what I can take away from the experience, and extremely important to spread the word about playwright’s to watch.  I'm proud to be a part of championing new work at Chicago Dramatists, and looking to bring you what I observe in the making of each reading.

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