A Field of Different Dreams

A new show, “This Is Not a Game of Baseball,” tells the story of Dock Ellis, who threw a no-hitter in 1970 while high on LSD. Photo: Mirrorbox Theatre

Writer: Michael Morain
Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs

Dock Ellis pitched a no-hitter for the Pittsburgh Pirates on June 12, 1970. He didn’t remember it, however, because he was high on LSD.

Intrigued? So is the playwright Cavan Hall, whose new show about the event will receive its world premiere next month in Marion. Mirrorbox Theatre plans to present “This Is Not a Game of Baseball” Sept. 17-26 in a clearing at Allen’s Orchard (5801 10th St.).

“The novelty of the historical moment was the hook, but the more I read about Dock Ellis”—in news articles and a 1989 memoir—”the more his story resonated with my interests, especially about memory,” Hall says. “Here was this famous athlete who was sober for 20-some years after his career, but is best known for something he can’t even remember.”

Hall has covered a wide range of topics in previous shows, including the musical “The Suffragists,” which premiered last month in Cedar Falls with support from the Iowa Arts Council. His touring productions have been performed for nearly 5 million students across the United States.

But the story of the late pitcher once known as “the Muhammad Ali of baseball” offered new creative opportunities. Hall’s plot follows the arc of that strange 1970 game while the actors playing Ellis’ teammates, including Hall of Famer Roberto Clemente, double as characters from the pitcher’s complicated personal life.

“Once I figured out that the LSD trip offered unlimited permission for narrative exploration and experimentation,” Hall says, “that’s when we were off to the races.”

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