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‘THE GIRLS OF SUMMER’ were all smiles, along with playwright Layon Gray, top right, and Joyce Meggerson-Moore, top left. (Photo by Renee Sorrell)

‘The Girls of Summer’ gives unique look into female baseball leagues

Film producer Layon Gray’s productions always provoke surprised audience members who learn a new nugget of little-known Black history in his work.

His award-winning, off-Broadway play “The Girls of Summer” is no exception. The play ran at the Kelly Strayhorn Theater in East Liberty, November 17-19.

“I think our audiences like the historical aspects of his plays,” said Joyce Meggerson-Moore, New Horizon Theater Inc. Chairperson of the Board of Directors. “It gives them a story and many of them—young people and adults—have never heard of what he’s writing about. Many times people come up to me after seeing one of his plays and say, ‘Oh I didn’t know that!’ What he does is combine historical facts into drama and suspense.”

Written, choreographed and directed by Gray, “The Girls of Summer” is a unique look into the 1940s female baseball leagues, offering hope in the face of discrimination. The tear-jerking drama focuses on an all-Negro female team who are being trained to compete against the Rockford Peaches, an all-White female team and champions of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL). Only a few weeks before the exhibition game is to take place, the team’s coach is found dead, leaving the girls to face this injustice alone, alongside tackling discrimination, both on and off the field. Racism, deceit and betrayal are brought to light.

The two-hour production featured 11 powerful women who portrayed the hard-nosed coach, journalist and baseball players beautifully.

“I enjoyed the camaraderie of the women,” said Penn Hills resident Sandra Nevel. She was interested in seeing the production because its plot hit close to home for her. Nevel’s mother-in-law played on one of the Negro Leagues in Harlem in the 1940s and ‘50s. “I didn’t know what to expect but the play showed some of the things that we still face today, like racism. It shows that we need to support each other. My mother-in-law is long gone now, but I would like to have a conversation with her to hear what she went through.”

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