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MARION - Actor William Christopher was happy to talk about "Church Basement Ladies," in which he is stars.

"It's very funny and devotes itself to making an audience laugh," Christopher said Wednesday during a private lunch at Honeybakers Restaurant Bakery & Catering.

The soon to be 77-year-old Evanston native who gained fame from his many years of playing Father Mulcahy on the television classic M*A*S*H, said he is having a fun time with the comedy musical written by Jim Stowell and Jessica Zuehlke that centers on ladies who volunteer their time in a basement kitchen of a Lutheran Church in a small northern Minnesota town in the 1960s.

"It has a touch of nostalgia that helps a work of art. M*A*S*H was nostalgic to the time period it was portrayed in during the Korean War," Christopher said.

The play is not a non-ending stream of laughter. There are serious notes, times of reflection and disagreements of opinion over the element of "change," Christopher said.

"We end it all on a positive note," he said about the play's conclusion.

During Wednesday's lunch which Christopher volunteered his time to share with winners of ticket auctions promoted by local radio stations, the Wesleyan University graduate spoke some about autism, a developmental disorder he is familiar with, having raised a son, Ned, who is afflicted with it.

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Christopher and his wife Barbara were very active with autism nonprofit agencies nearly 20 years earlier, doing public service announcements to bring attention to it and help raise money for research. They wrote a book, "Mixed Blessings, about their experiences raising Ned.

"There are some great people in this battle. We've met a lot of wonderful people including doctors and psychiatrists," Christopher said.

Bryan Rives, director of Southern Illinois University Carbondale Event Services, which is hosting "Church Basement Ladies," through Southern Lights Entertainment, said ticket sales for the musical play shows were more than 1,800 as of Thursday.

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It's the second highest ticket sales for Southern Lights behind a B.B. King performance in 2008, Rives said, noting many sales have been blocks of tickets to church groups.

"We are elated William Christopher donated time today for a private lunch," Rives said.

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