Tonea Stewart: Actress and retired Alabama State dean and educator returns for tribute show Saturday


Reprinted from the Montgomery Advertiser

As a dean, an educator, an actor and a mentor, Tommie “Tonea” Stewart left a massive legacy at Alabama State University when she retired in June.

On Saturday, pieces of that legacy are coming home to honor her.

“We’re planning tribute performances from alumni,” said Wendy Coleman, associate professor ASU Department of Theatre Arts. “They’ll be reprising pieces from various shows that they’ve done.”

The evening tribute, which is a part of ASU’s homecoming and Turkey Day Classic lineup, takes place at 6 p.m. in the Leila Barlow Theatre in ASU’s Tullibody Fine Arts Building. Tickets are $50.

“We’ve had a great time reconnecting with the alumni,” said Coleman, who was an ASU freshman when she first met Stewart in 1990.

Scheduling this special evening with Stuart was a bit of a challenge, and not just for the ASU theater and dance alumni and special guests.

“Although (Stewart’s) retired, she’s still super active,” Coleman said. “The main thing was nailing down that date and making sure she would be there for us to honor her.”

A native of Greenwood, Mississippi, Stewart was an educator for 48 years. She became part of the ASU faculty in 1990, and would step up to lead as ASU’s dean of the College of Visual and Performing Arts, which contains three accredited programs for visual arts, theatre arts and music.

She also spent years running a series of summer theater camps for young and old at ASU.

As an actor, Stewart has appeared in films like “Mississippi Burning,” “A Time to Kill,” “The Rosa Parks Story” and “Mississippi Damned.”

She had a recurring role as Miss Etta Kibbee in the long-running television series “In the Heat of the Night,” and also appeared in classic shows like “Walker, Texas Ranger,” “Touched by an Angel” and “Matlock.”

Recent roles include the films “Girls Trip” and in the Netflix original “Come Sunday.”

Back in June, Stewart said she had purposely slowed down on acting roles after she became a dean at ASU.

The role she’s been focusing on since retirement has a select audience? her family. Stuart and her husband, Allen (who also retired as a professor from ASU), are parents and grandparents.

“God has been so good. I have no complaints,” Stewart said. “I just look forward to the future, watching my children embark upon their goals in life, and my grandchildren.”

She’s still looking out for her beloved ASU, and the $50 tickets for Saturday evening will help fund the theater arts program.

“She’s always trying to find ways to help the theater,” Coleman said. “She allowed this occasion not only to honor her, but to act as a fundraiser for the department.”

In addition to the performances, Saturday evening includes a reception.