Lords of Scep­tre will bring small town mem­o­ries to life

The Southwest Booster - - FRONT PAGE - SCOTT AN­DER­SON SOUTH­WEST BOOSTER

The cre­ative writ­ing mind who de­vel­oped the im­mensely pop­u­lar Di­a­mond Girls is un­veil­ing a new one-act play which high­lights the base­ball achieve­ments of the Scep­tre base­ball team dur­ing the late 1940s and early 1950s.

Mau­reen Ul­rich will be tour­ing the play Lords of Scep­tre to 10 lo­ca­tions this month, in­clud­ing South­west stops in Swift Cur­rent on Novem­ber 13 and Scep­tre on Novem­ber 15.

Ul­rich wrote the play to tell the sur­pris­ing story of the high qual­ity of base­ball played in the small com­mu­nity of Scep­tre dur­ing the hey­day of barn­storm­ing. Prairie base­ball was highly com­pet­i­tive in the late 40s, with pro hockey play­ers and re­cruits from the Ne­gro Base­ball League join­ing lo­cal play­ers dur­ing hec­tic sum­mer sea­sons of base­ball.

“It was just a re­ally unique time in base­ball, with NHL play­ers and Ne­gro Ma­jor League play­ers rub­bing shoul­ders with farm boys,” Ul­rich ex­plained about the play.

“What else was there to do in a small town but play ball. They played it at re­cess. That’s what they as­pired to do, to play with the se­nior team when they were 16 or 17 years old.”

Scep­tre was her dad’s home­town, and while her fa­ther never spoke much about play­ing base­ball be­fore he passed away last May, Ul­rich has gone on to re­search the rich his­tory of Saskatchewan base­ball and the rise of Scep­tre into one of the top teams in the prov­ince.

The play is pre­sented through the point of view nar­ra­tion of Ge­orge Ma­haffy, her fa­ther’s cousin, who be­gan play­ing with the men’s team at the age of 17, play­ing first base and pitch­ing dur­ing ex­hi­bi­tion games.

“He just kind of got swept along on this mighty wave where they played 120 games a sum­mer, and never stayed home. He talks about one June where he was on the road and slept in his own bed two nights out of the whole month.”

“To me it’s just fas­ci­nat­ing, and it’s poignant, and it’s about a pe­riod,” she said. “It’s not just about the team, it’s also about the town.”

“And it’s also about a way of life that I don’t know that re­ally ex­ists any­more. You know of small towns that are dy­ing, and no grain el­e­va­tor, and no econ­omy. It’s quite wist­ful.”

Ul­rich notes he had a series of visits with Ge­orge Ma­haffy to gather as much in­for­ma­tion about the team and their ex­ploits.

“I prompted Ge­orge to tell me some sto­ries, and then I re­al­ized there is ac­tu­ally a good story here about a lit­tle team that com­pleted on a big stage.”

The pro­duc­tion stars Mikael Steponchev and Tyler Top­pings, and au­di­ence mem­bers will lit­er­ally be in the mid­dle of the ac­tion.

“What they’re go­ing to see is two guys play­ing ball, sto­ry­telling, switch­ing char­ac­ters, do­ing kind of a series of di­a­logues, mono­logues. The play is be­ing done in­side of an imag­i­nary ball di­a­mond.”

She notes that Di­rec­tor Mark Clax­ton came up with an idea of how to make the au­di­ence feel they are part of the ac­tion.

“He said wouldn’t it be cool to make the au­di­ence feel like they’re ac­tu­ally at a game, and to have the ac­tors some­times run­ning out be­yond them to catch a foul ball, or slid­ing into sec­ond right in front of them, or ac­tu­ally draw­ing au­di­ence mem­bers into the play to be char­ac­ters. It’s go­ing to be a lot of fun. Very in­ter­ac­tive.”

She stresses that Lords of Scep­tre is more than just a lo­cal in­ter­est play.

“If you’re a fan of theatre, it’s great. If you’re a fan of base­ball, it’s great. If you’re a fan of his­tory, it’s great. And if you’re a fan of none of those things, I think even so you still get caught up in it.

“It’s al­ways my hope that I im­pact the au­di­ence in mul­ti­ple ways. Emo­tion­ally, I make them laugh, I make them cry. And I also hope that I make them hun­gry for more in­for­ma­tion.”

“This isn’t just for peo­ple who lived at that time. This is for eight-year-old boys or girls who love ball, and for them to know about the roots of base­ball in their com­mu­nity.”

Lords of Scep­tre will also fea­ture a ques­tion and an­swer ses­sion at the end of the show, sim­i­lar to what oc­curs fol­low­ing Di­a­mond Girls.

“Its great to have peo­ple ask ques­tions. But what is even more in­ter­est­ing is the sto­ries that they tell us,” Ul­rich said.

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