Michael Milligan returns for “Side Effects” premiere

Michael Milligan performs a staged reading of the one-man play Side Effects

Inspired by Physicians Facing Challenges in America’s Health Care System
Part of Zoellner Arts Center’s Notation Series

Zoellner Arts Center at Lehigh University proudly presents its sixth year of the innovative series–Notations: Lectures and Other Presentations–with highly-respected representatives from a variety of literary genres. Actor Michael Milligan performs Side Effects, a dramatic play he also wrote, on Thursday, April 14 at 4:30pm and Friday, April 15 at 7:30pm. The play was developed at the esteemed NYC Stella Adler Studio of Acting with its artistic director and president, Tom Oppenheim. Notations is sponsored by the Lehigh Creative Writing Program in collaboration with the Visiting Lecturers Committee. Tickets are $10 for the general public and free for Lehigh faculty, staff and students. Tickets are required for all and available at zoellnerartscenter.org.

Actor Michael Milligan’s first performed at Zoellner in 2014 in a one-man show, Mercy Killers, which examined the challenges patients face, and he is now returning with a project commissioned by and premiering at the center, Side Effects, another topical play examining America’s health care system from a doctor’s point of view. Following up on the research and notions in Mercy Killers, this new work builds on the topic of our healthcare system from the perspective of the healer, the practitioner, the physician.  It deals with the intellect, inspiration, commitment and compulsion that informs or compels people to “go into” medicine and the triumphs and trials that keep them there…or not.

As his physician father slips towards senility, Dr. William MacQueen strives to live up to the standards he has inherited. The frustration of forms, complicated coding and red tape begin to erode his practice and threaten his family life. William must choose between the roles of doctor, husband, father, and son. Based on extensive interviews, Milligan’s solo play examines the challenges confronting primary care doctors in America. “Medicine is a trust earned by listening, but I can’t hear anymore,” states the broken physician in Milligan’s play.

Milligan examines the art of medicine, of a physician’s desire to heal patients, versus the war of attrition they face against a mindless machine comprised of malpractice suits, ethical questions, and a broken health care system. He posits how many people fall through the cracks because of these distractions from practicing true medicine.  Milligan’s work strives to put a human face on what he perceives to be a national tragedy.
Playwright and actor Michael Milligan has been writing and acting for the theater for almost two decades. Milligan has appeared on the Broadway stage as Little Charles in “August: Osage County,” De Bries in “La Bete,” and as a ‘raver’ and understudy in Jerusalem. No stranger to the one man show, Milligan performed Will Eno’s Thom Pain in the original New York run taking over from James Urbaniak and T. Ryder Smith at the DR2. Other New York credits include The Golem with Robert Prosky, the world premiere of “The Empty Ocean” with Harold Clurman Theater Lab, and “Nightlands” with New Georges.

He also received 4 Stars for his performance of Lanford Wilson’s one man show ‘Poster of the Cosmos’ at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. A performance which also earned him Best Actor nods in his hometown, Columbus, Ohio. Milligan’s other produced plays include “Heroine, Urgent: Aliens,” and a musical adaptation of Aesop’s Fables for Circle in the Square with composer/rocker, Joziah Longo, of Gandalf Murphy and the Slambovian Circus of Dreams. A reading of Milligan’s verse play, “Phaeton,” was presented by the Harold Clurman Theater Lab featuring Mark Rylance, David Hyde Pierce and Joanna Lumley.  Milligan received his training from Julliard where he won the John Houseman Prize for excellence in classical drama.  He has performed Shakespearean roles around the world and is a sometime instructor of Shakespeare at the Stella Adler Studio of Acting.

In his position as Artistic Director and President of the Stella Adler Studio of Acting for over 15 years, Tom Oppenheim has articulated a mission, engaged top faculty, structured a world-class training program and created a cultural center. He originated the Harold Clurman Laboratory Theater Company in 2002 which has since presented over twenty productions including eleven world premieres.  As a result of his vision the Studio has evolved from an acting conservatory to a cultural center with a unique focus in American actor training. Students are encouraged to not only be well versed in theater, art, music and literature, but to also be conscious of and involved in social, humanitarian and political issues.  Oppenheim studied acting at the National Shakespeare Conservatory and with his grandmother, Stella Adler.

Effective Modes of Alternative Art: The Eco-Reps Trashion Show

My Thursday nights have been interesting lately. On March 31, after three years of eyeing Eco-Reps’ signature spring event, I finally found the chance to attend their Trashion Show, a night of fashion and trash—or trash into fashion.

As others excitedly took the time to mingle in the STEPS lounge while the models made their final adjustments, I decided to temporarily do away with my regular obnoxious, extroverted persona and step aside with the provided salad finger foods (…and two or three chocolatey sprinkled brownies). The crowd they had drawn was moderate in size, yet quite rambunctious, everyone milling about the food, catwalk, and adjacent seats with a few stragglers walking in, attracted by the crowds seen in the transparent STEPS walls. In crunching on the first real vegetables that I’d seen in days (that weren’t vegetable juice), I wanted to reacquaint myself with the signature events on campus after having not stayed on campus for consecutive semesters for two years.


Image credit: Lehigh Eco-Reps Trashion Show 2016 (Facebook)


Image credit: Lehigh Eco-Reps Trashion Show 2016 (Facebook)

Why were signature events, well, signature? Was it the community spirit they fostered through linking common ideas in an entrepreneurial spirit? Similarly, did the entrepreneurial spirit typically involve the arts? What all these interlinking spirits hold in common, and how did they contribute to the campus community?

When the event finally began, it made a light-hearted mockery of New York Fashion Week. The “catwalk” was more of a vertical green golf walk with plastic seats on both sides, and Eco-Reps and the Brown and White had set up a professional camera at the end, supposedly at the ready to take video and pictures. However, the set-up and the event itself did not yield Victoria’s Secret-level results. Very few Lehigh students know how to strut their stuff, and it was captured through the five-minute procession. Both guys and girls were awkward and stiff, freezing at the camera and suddenly unsure of where to place their hands and at what angle to dip their hips. Having participated in a body positivity fashion show my first year of college, I could understand their nervousness and slight uneasiness at posing for more than a second in front of the camera. The ladies attempted to undulate their hips—“it looked so easy to do in heels on TV”—and the men sauntered like seventh-grade boys.

That all being said, none of the above mattered, as that was not the point of the event. The entire premise of the event was to have fun while raising awareness of the preeminence of waste for positive re-imaginings and critical design thinking, and everyone knew it. All (brave) volunteers decided on ridiculous poses rather than the sultry, serious pouts of Paris designer halls. One guy, dressed up as if he were off to LARP in Natty Lite armor, wielded a sword crafted out of—you know it—Natty Lite to resounding cheers and laughs from everyone, while a girl sprinkled some litter over the crowd and sheepishly smiled, once bending over to laugh at the absurdity of it all.


Image credit: Lehigh Eco-Reps Trashion Show 2016 (Facebook)

The costumes themselves were impressive, more than trash bags blowing aimlessly on people’s shoulders. The girls strutted in a strapless dress made from boxes of clementines, a strapless cardboard corset, and color coordinated themselves, mixing their outfits with their own leggings, heels, and fashion make-up. The guys, again, dressed like LARPers, but no costumes had the stability of actual LARP costumes, breaking apart in the middle of the walkway, cups sent scattering everywhere.


Image credit: Lehigh Eco-Reps Trashion Show 2016 (Facebook)


Image credit: Lehigh Eco-Reps Trashion Show 2016 (Facebook)


Image credit: Lehigh Eco-Reps Trashion Show 2016 (Facebook)

The notoriety of the night wasn’t lost on anyone as Pitbull and Ke$ha’s “Timber” started blasting and everyone started singing along. The event had definitely fostered a shared sense and laughter across communities, in spite of the actual divisions of the groups there, especially along gender lines. However, it is possible for fraternities, sororities, athletes wearing lacrosse and track shirts, independents, and Eco-Reps to share a room with each other and partake in a collaborative camaraderie. The room’s atmosphere was decidedly lightened after the event had ended.

The bonds within groups were strengthened as well. The Trashion Show called for volunteer designers and models through flyers and University Announcements email, and this was a well-established event celebrating fun and creativity, so it was easy to encourage participation. Each group prepared their own costume and model, thinking, buying, stitching, and taping together, with the rest of the group coming out to support them with cheers and hoots as their final creation manifested itself in the STEPS concourse. People from other groups joined in, visibly impressed with some outfits.

Eco Reps hold annual Trashion Show from The Brown and White on Vimeo.

Eco-Reps has succeeded with this show every year in using what is “normally considered to be trash” to advocate for sustainability and promote Lehigh’s participation in the national Recyclemania competition. It is an alternative take on creative thought and art. Rather than pushing ideas of sustainability through regular textbook and lecture methods, which students have already heard enough of, Eco-Reps were smart for designing an alternative educational method to reframe the issue that can be excitedly engaged and promote new values in students’ lives. After all, we have different ways of learning and remembering, and engaging different sections of the brain helps get the message across.

Eco-Reps and the participants understood that creativity is taking the basics and finding connections between them, as the official announcements called for that creativity. Entrepreneurship was built into the night in that “there are creative ways to reuse things in actuality that can be functional.” Breaking it down, how did they decide which materials to use that not only accounted for body measurements, but were the most flattering to the body? Which materials worked the best with each other, and did it depend on cuts and stitching?

My mind began turning as questions flooded my mind in considering the mechanics of each design product. However, I knew that in the end, my questions about the annual Trashion Show’s commitment and fostering of community and entrepreneurship with a message through alternative forms of art were successfully answered.

—Sunny Huang, Class of 2016