Oakwood High School students bring Korean War television show to the stage
Play provides a different perspective for actors
Published in the October 26 – November 8, 2016 issue of Morgan Hill Life
By Nikhita Gopisetty
Oakwood High School will present “M*A*S*H,” a comedy play based on the popular television show from the 1970s and 1980s. The students invite the community join them at the 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital where the story takes place during the Korean War in the early 1950s.
The doctors, nurses and hospital staff resort to humor to distract themselves from the great stress and pain that comes from the harsh reality of war that surrounds them. The audience sees the differences in how men and women were treated in the war and how they reacted to their unique experiences. This show gives the actors and actresses a new perspective of the advancements of gender equality within the last century.
The director of the show, Kathleen Abbey, grew up in a military household and was thrilled to perform this show and share her experiences.
“It has been fun introducing the students to unfamiliar terms and proceedings. They all comprehended that in serious situations, humor and levity can help alleviate and dispel fear and horror,” she said. “I think students feel the isolation and understand that serious horrific realities need some kind of personal release to keep one sane. The lack of communication and entertainment available required personalities to be more flexible and possibly befriend those who in other circumstances might not be your mates.”
Kyle Stickels, an Oakwood senior who plays the role of Captain Benjamin Franklin Pierce (“Hawkeye”) in “M*A*S*H,” experiences in the show how the doctors in the unit used comedy to distract themselves from the horror of war.
“In an environment where violence and death is a constant, it became very important for some kind of escape,” he said. “The characters of M*A*S*H deal with the horrors that they face through comedy, truly putting into practice that laughter is the best medicine.”
In the unit, the doctors are constantly surrounded by death, and the only way they can cope with this is through childish pranks and making fun of their fellow military personnel, he said.
Alia Insignares, a senior at Oakwood High School, plays the role of Margaret Houlihan. Her nickname, “Hot Lips,” encompasses the constant sexism the nurses faced during the Korean War, she said.
“Playing the role of a woman nurse during the 1950s has shed light on the under appreciation they faced within the military,” she said. “Despite being officers, women were constantly objectified in regards to appearance, and were treated much less than equals. Nurses were arguably just as important as doctors in that both occupations required intense levels of dedication, and both mental and physical strength. Despite this, their work and dedication constantly went unrecognized.”
During the war, women faced this discrimination on a daily basis, for it was one of the many ways in which men used comedy to distract themselves from the war, she said. Though many efforts were made to get rid of these stereotypes, they were ever-present in the M*A*S*H units in the war.
Oakwood High School will present three shows — 7 p.m. Friday Nov. 4 and 1 and 7 p.m. Saturday Nov. 5. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for students at the door. Seats are first come first serve. The Oakwood Theatre is located at 105 John Wilson Way Morgan Hill.
Nikhita Gopisetty is a sophomore at Oakwood High School. She wrote this story for Morgan Hill Life.