ERHS bringing MASH mischief to stage starting Friday

ERHS actors (from left) Brady Murphy, Nick Walz, James Bounds, Kael Smith and Grayson Ziegler rehearse a scene from “MASH.”  (Photo by Bruce Strand)
ERHS actors (from left) Brady Murphy, Nick Walz, James Bounds, Kael Smith and Grayson Ziegler rehearse a scene from “MASH.” (Photo by Bruce Strand)


by Bruce Strand, Arts Editor

Elk River theater director Michelle Brooks made an unusual choice for the fall play in “MASH,” the Korean War field hospital comedy that was a huge success as a movie in 1970 and a later as a TV series but is seldom seen in live theater.

It could be intriguing, to see how characters familiar to almost everyone, such as Hawkeye, Radar O’Riley, Maj. Houlihan and Col. Blake, will be brought to life by students.

That’s what Brooks decided, too, after brainstorming with her costumer, Christine Houchings, over lunch one day this summer in Maple Grove.

“‘MASH’ came up, and I loved ‘MASH,’ and we were debating about it,” Brooks said, “and, all of a sudden, along comes this old military motorcycle, with side car, painted army green, around the corner! In Maple Grove! And I looked at it, and looked at Christine, and said, OK, we are definitely doing ‘MASH.’ It was like a sign.”

Five performances are slated for the next two weekends, starting Friday, Nov. 1.

“In the play, some things are very similar to the movie, but it’s prior to the TV show (time frame), and obviously, they (script-writers) had to clean it up a little,” Brooks said, adding that Hawkeye’s (James Bounds) best friend and co-conspirator is Duke Forest (Brady Murphy), not Trapper John (Grayson Ziegler), who has just arrived.

“It follows them trying to get Ho-Jon (Emily Motin, in a script twist) back to the States to medical school, and up to the time they go back home. Yes, they go home. Not like the TV show.”

There are familiar themes like Hawkeye caring much about doctoring but little about Army customs, Maj. Houlihan (Erin Stein) taking charge of the nurses all gung-ho military, Hawkeye and his buds driving Frank Burns (Lucas Laniel) crazy, and exasperated Col. Henry Blake (Andy Bronshteyn) trying to hold it all together.

There’s no Klinger character and no Burns-Houlihan affair. Radar (Andrew Elmquist) is not yet the Radar we know. There are several nurses parts, with the cast more female than male. Houlihan’s main conflict is with the gentler nurse she replaced, played by Hannah Gandrud.

Other cast members are Taylor Martin, Jake Berglove, Nick Walz, Katelyn Brinza, Isabella Hinseth, Tricia Burke, Travis Rand, Alex Thorsen, Kael Smith, Caylee Piersak, Emily Holmquist, Jenny Nordstrom, Mary Rolfes, Olivia Fromm, Jaide Friese, Jesse McCormick, Isabella Dusbabek and Emily Mattingly.

One of the main problems was rounding up enough 1950s drab-green Army uniforms, Brooks said, because “when those show up in the thrift stores, the kids snap them up right away because that whole khaki look is popular now.” And the black boots are hard to find and not cheap, either.

Evidently they’ve got the cast sufficiently in uniform with opening night approaching.

By Elk River High School
At Zabee Theatre
Fri. Nov. 1, at 7 p.m.
Sat., Nov. 2, at 2 and 7 p.m.
Thu., Nov. 7, at 7 p.m.
Fri., Nov. 8, at 7 p.m.
Sat., Nov. 9, at 7 p.m.