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Still at bat: Senior softball team at the center of comedy at Black Box

Dan Harris plays a guy nicknamed Kielbasa in the comedy Buzzard Ball, which chronicles the adventures of an inept senior softball team. Shows run April 22-30 at the Merrill Community Arts Center at East Ridge High School in Woodbury. Buzzard Ball is a production of Passport Stages, a theater troupe in West St. Paul that provides acting opportunities for seniors. Submitted photo.

What happens when a softball team full of sad sack seniors starts winning?

For one thing, their wives are surprised.

The theatrical comedy "Buzzard Ball" opens a home stand Saturday at the Merrill Community Arts Center at East Ridge High School in Woodbury.

Director and artistic director Steven Peterson calls it "The Bad News Bears" meets "Grumpy Old Men."

"It's an over 50s softball team in Arizona that has never won a game in three years and still they keep on trying," he said.

When one of the team members quits, the players gather at a dive sports bar, where serendipity strikes — they meet a stranger who agrees to play on their team.

"Little do they know that he's a ringer," Peterson said. "He played in the minors for the Chicago Cubs."

The team starts winning, but it comes at a price.

The show is produced by Passport Stages, a West St. Paul theater company who provide performing opportunities for actors 50 and over.

"A lot of community theaters around here don't cast seniors," Passport company member Alexx Stuart said. "When they cast a role that's a senior role, they cast a young person and make them up to try to make them look old. We may be old, but we still have the desire to perform in theater."

"Buzzard Ball" will appeal to all ages, he said.

Stuart wrote the play.The former athletic director and lifelong softball player based the plot partly on his own experiences playing in a real-life Buzzard senior softball league in Fountain Hills, Az.

The performance schedule includes added matinees.

If you go:

Performances of Buzzard Ball are 7 p.m. April 22 and 28-29; 3 p.m. April 23 and 30 and 2 p.m. April 26-27. All performances run at the Merrill Community Arts Center Black Box Theater in East Ridge High School, 4200 Pioneer Drive, Woodbury. Admission is $20 adults, $18 seniors, $15 students and free for active military families. Group pricing of 20 percent off is available for 12 or more tickets purchased for the same performance. More info and tickets can be purchased at www.merrillartscenter.org or by calling 612-399-6568.

William Loeffler

William Loeffler is a playwright and journalist from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He worked 15 years writing features for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He has also written travel stories based on his trips to all seven continents. He and his wife, Michelle, ran the Boston Marathon in 2009. 

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