The real Toni Stone (Transcendental Graphics/Getty Images) and Hattie McDaniel (promotional picture from 1939)
The real Toni Stone (Transcendental Graphics/Getty Images) and Hattie McDaniel (promotional picture from 1939)

Black History Month comes alive with two premiere productions about African-American trailblazers Toni Stone and Hattie McDaniel whose talent and tenacity helped them change the sports and entertainment arenas by becoming the first in their respective fields.

Tracey N. Bonner portrays the titular Toni Stone (through Feb. 26) on Goodman Theatre’s Albert stage. Inspired by the book “Curveball: The Remarkable Story of Toni Stone” by Martha Ackmann, Lydia Diamond’s original play depicts the athlete dubbed the “female Jackie Robinson.” Rejected by the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League because of her race, Stone became the first woman to compete in the Negro Leagues amid challenges on and off the field.

For tickets to the Chicago premiere production directed by Ron OJ Parson, visit GoodmanTheatre.org.

The world premiere of TimeLine Theatre’s Boulevard of Bold Dreams (through March 19) takes audiences back to February 29, 1940 — the night Hattie McDaniel made history by becoming the first Black performer to win an Oscar for Gone with the Wind (1939). Despite the impending milestone, the actress (played by Gabrielle Lott-Rogers) isn’t so sure she should attend the ceremony due to discrimination in Hollywood and racial segregation of the day.

“We’re delighted to introduce playwright LaDarrion Williams to Chicago, and welcome director Malkia Stampley to TimeLine for the first time to helm this play about conviction, representation, and the pursuit of artistic passion,” says the company’s artistic director PJ Powers.

For tickets, visit TimeLineTheatre.com. 

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Janet Arvia

Ms. Arvia is a Rebellious columnist and movie critic; entertainment ghostwriter; award-winning artist; and grant-winning filmmaker.