Artfully Edmonds: M*A*S*H rolls into town, bringing laughter in midst of war

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    By Ellen Chappelle

    Most people have seen at least an episode or two of the popular, long-running television show M*A*S*H. The series, which ran from 1972 -1983, had scores of faithful viewers. Its finale was the most-watched television episode in U.S. history at the time, with a record-breaking 125 million viewers, according to the New York Times.

    If you’ve been missing your buddies in fatigues, you’re in luck! Our friends at Driftwood Players are preparing to perform the stage version of M*A*S*H, based on the book written in 1968 by Richard Hooker.

    Cast members include, left to right, BriAnne Green, Jenny Price, Don Taylor, Tabitha Bastien, Jonathan Locke, Garr Godfrey and, on the table, Rob Perkins. Photo by Michael Bury Photography

    “This adaptation is from the book,” explains producer Joanne Branch, “And some of the characters are definitely recognizable [from the TV show], but there are others that most of our patrons will not know, and some they may expect to see who are not part of the story. Much will be familiar, however. And I am pleased with the attention to the period – it is the early ’50s and the cast has worked hard to keep that flavor in mind.”

    Set during the Korean War, M*A*S*H, the play, is a black comedy about life in a Mobile Army Surgical Hospital unit located only three miles from the front lines. As the primary mission of a MASH unit is to provide immediate medical treatment to Americans wounded in combat, the young surgeons are often up to their elbows in blood and guts for long periods of time. But when they’re off duty, the MASH personnel keep their sanity by pursuing a wacky, irreverent lifestyle that leads to some hilarious adventures.

    Lighting designer Syrinda Sharpe and producer Joanne Branch.

    Lighting designer Syrinda Sharpe has been enjoying watching the script come to life during rehearsals. “There is a lot of emotion in this show. It runs the whole range. [Patrons] should expect to have fun, see some familiar characters in perhaps a different light and enjoy some great acting. I saw a run-through last week and it was excellent – two weeks out from opening!”

    Sharpe has been volunteering with Driftwood since 1991. In addition to the occasional stint at the lighting board, she helps “administer the Facebook page and work with the local papers and blogs to publicize what Driftwood is working on, as well as coordinating the photographers for the promotional shoots, rehearsal pictures and candids that are seen on Facebook and in the lobby.”

    Branch also joined the Driftwood crew in 1991. “I got started because it was a way I could see some live theater for free – sort of – and got really hooked,” she said. “Started with painting sets, moved into some set construction (I can handle power tools), then into set design. I have served on the board for the last seven years, handling Front of House requirements, and began producing perhaps five years ago.”

    As producer, Branch oversees the production, helping the director bring his vision to life by rounding up the technical personnel needed (lighting, costume and property designers, as well as backstage help and sound and light-board operators) and keeping an eye on the budget. “It is fascinating to watch a large, diverse bunch of people become a working, functioning unit,” she says.
    Both women keep busy outside the theater, too; Sharpe is a records specialist for a law firm and budding photographer, and Branch, a retired teacher, serves as adjunct faculty for Heritage University. But it’s clear that they cherish their time with Driftwood. “I feel there’s nothing like a live performance to get one’s juices going,” exclaims Branch. “And the best part is that anyone can participate – one does not have to be on stage to have a great time!”

    Sharpe agrees, saying, “This is what community theater is all about – allowing someone who knows nothing about a theater art to learn and practice that skill. I spend a lot of time at the light board fixing looks and getting the timing right. I am also mentoring someone who hasn’t done lights before, so that I can pass on what I have learned.”

    Whether you would like to get involved with the process of mounting a show or you prefer to join the audience for a great performance, there’s room for you at Driftwood – and this production of M*A*S*H.

    Branch extends a warm invitation to all: “Come and enjoy an evening of live entertainment! You’ll laugh out loud at much of this show – it’s really funny and the cast is having a great time.”

    Performances will be at Wade James Theatre, 950 Main St., in Edmonds from Feb. 10-26. Showtimes on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays are at 8 p.m. and on Sundays, at 2 p.m. Tickets are available online or by calling the box office at 425-774-9600.

    General admission is $23. Junior (18 & under), Senior (60+) and Military (with ID or in uniform) tickets are $20. Call for group pricing. An ASL-interpreted performance will be held Sunday, Feb. 12 at 2 p.m.

    With a background in theatre and journalism, Ellen Chappelle is perfectly poised to cover the local arts scene for My Edmonds News. She also keeps busy writing and editing for artists and small businesses, publishing an informational site for dog owners and creating handcrafted jewelry. Please keep her posted about all things artistic in Edmonds by emailing her at arts@myedmondsnews.com.

    2 COMMENTS

    1. I’m so glad this is based on the play/movie of M*A*S*H*, rather than the over-exposed TV show. We saw the movie when we were in high school at the Lynn Twin, double billed with Butch Cassidy

    2. This is an excellent show. Until this week I have been helping the cast as a prompter and verbally taking their place when they can’t make a rehearsal. The cast has such fun portraying the characters. Jonathan Reis, the director, does a fantastic job drawing out the cast. Everyone will thoroughly this comedy!!!

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