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Iconic military comedy 'M*A*S*H' comes to Duluth stage

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From left, Bruce Saarela is Maj. Frank Burns, Karin Goss is Maj. Margaret Houlihan and Doug Isbecque is Lt. Col. Henry Blake in New Dawn Theater’s production of “M*A*S*H.” (Special Photo: Karyn West)

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New Dawn Theater’s “M*A*S*H” production runs through Sept. 8. (Special Photo: Karyn West)

If You Go

• What: “M*ASH”

• When: 8 p.m. today, runs through Sept. 8. Dates and time vary.

• Where: New Dawn Theater, 3087 Main St., Duluth

• Cost: $12 to $15

• For more information: Visit newdawntheatercompany.com

DULUTH — Calling all “M*ASH” fans: New Dawn Theater is bringing the classic television series to life.

Today, the gang takes the stage for a few hours bringing writer Tim Kelly’s characters to Duluth.

“‘M*ASH’ is everybody’s favorite show — no matter what generation you’re from, everyone knows what ‘M*ASH’ is,” director Sherry Ingbritsen said. “Everybody has their stories about their favorite line, their favorite character. I know it’s been done before, but I’ve always wanted to do it. It’s just a great story.”

The version on New Dawn’s stage was adapted from the 1970 movie, but Ingbritsen made some changes to the script.

“We actually added some things to the story,” she said. “There are so many people familiar with the series opposed to the movie, so we actually added some things in the play that are from the series that weren’t in the movie.

“For example, in the script, there is no Klinger. But ‘M*ASH’ with no Klinger? A couple of the lines were added … that people can say, ‘I remember that one was said.’”

The play is set in South Korea during the Korean War at the 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital. The plot follows the crazy cast of nurses, doctors and other military personnel during the war, treating the wounded as well as finding time to have some fun.

All of the favorites are there: Lt. Col. Henry Blake (played by Doug Isbecque), the cross-dressing chef Cpl. Maxwell Klinger (Marcus Weathersby), uptight Maj. Frank Burns (Bruce Saarela), the dentist Capt. Walter Waldowski (Scott Gassman), Capt. John “Trapper” McIntyre (Patrick Gallagher), Capt. John “Ugly” Black (Steve Werner), Korean house-boy Ho-Jon (Jean Andrade) and Corp. Walter O’Reilly, aka “Radar.”

And of course Capt. B.F. “Hawkeye” Pierce (Steven Miller), Capt. Augustus “Duke” Forrest (Jay Croft) and Maj. Margaret “Hotlips” Houlihan create even more chaos when war isn’t ravaging the area around the camp.

Ingbritsen and her husband, Paul, pulled out all of the stops for the set. Besides building the structure, the two took several trips to a store to find the real-deal gear.

“Everything on the set is authentic,” the director said. “Everything is on there, foot lockers, cots, the mosquito netting, even the Red Cross — original from that era — we went to a military place out in Roswell and got everything. The guys worked with us for days and days. There are very few Red Crosses left in existence, so we were really lucky to get one for the show.”

As for the future of New Dawn, the staff is still searching for a new place to relocate.

On March 11, the city of Duluth entered into an agreement with consulting firm Morris & Fellows to provide professional services for redevelopment planning to revitalize the downtown dining and nightlife district in the Old City Hall Block, now called The Block, where the theater is located.

“We’ve got a couple places to go see,” Ingbritsen said. “We’re still hoping beyond hope that they’ll let us stay. They keep saying January, but they haven’t given us any dates. We just don’t know. We’re hoping they’re going to say go and stay.

“We’re looking for new storage (which is currently in the Strickland House and Norcross Presbyterian Church). We have to pull our stuff out of the Strickland House by Sept. 10 because they’re re-doing where everything is at, so we’ll loose the shed space.”

To help, visit New Dawn’s website. The play runs through Sept. 8.