Vintage Players bring fun, comedy to Theatre Lawrence stage tonight

Theatre Lawrence’s Vintage Players troupe has a single goal.

“The mission statement is ‘Just have fun,’” says Mary Ann Saunders, the group’s longtime director. “If other people want to come along – like the audience – the more, the merrier.”

That approach will be on display tonight in the troupe’s annual performance, “An Evening of Senior Moments.”

Composed of senior citizens, the Vintage Players specialize in script-in-hand readings of comedy sketches and classic one-liners. They meet regularly and take their show on the road to retirement communities and anywhere else they can find an audience.

“We’ll perform for anyone who will let us,” Saunders says.

Among the material the Vintage Players will perform tonight is a cutting from a show at Theatre Lawrence several seasons back, “Over the River and through the Woods.” The group adapted a scene and performed it in competition at a local Lawrence nightspot.

“We went up against stand-up comedians and other people who do comedy regularly, and we won,” Saunders enthuses.

The skit had to be unique to Lawrence, so the group put in references to a number of local history events, including a bank robbery committed by Clyde Barrow in the 1920’s.

The number of performers varies. Saunders notes she has 14 for tonight’s event.

“We’ve got folks coming from all over,” she says of the participants. “We’ve got retired secretaries, retired teachers, we’ve even got the husband of KU’s chancellor, Shade Little!”

Little became involved due to his desire to work with young people. In addition to performing their particular brand of humor at nursing homes and around the area, the group runs the theater’s Kids at Heart program. The Vintage Players visit Cordley and Deerfield Elementary Schools monthly to teach second-graders classic fairytales through re-enactment.

“Several years ago, a Deerfield teacher discovered that, if Disney hadn’t made a movie out of it, the kids didn’t know any of the classic fairytales,” Saunders explains.

The Vintage Players read stories like “Three Billy Goats Gruff” and “The Three Little Pigs” to the students and then have the children re-enact them.

As fun as it all is, tonight’s event does have a somber note to it. Agnes Engelmann, a longtime writer and performer for the group, is in the final stages of terminal cancer.

“She’ll be with us in the audience tonight, but she won’t be able to perform,” Saunders says. “We’re dedicating tonight’s show to her.”

Somehow that seems appropriate too. The Vintage Players are all about having fun. Her legacy will be on display tonight.

“An Evening of Senior Moments” plays tonight at 6 p.m. at Theatre Lawrence. Admission is free.


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