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‘Side Effects’ one-man play to be performed at the Quick Center for the Arts

Apr 09, 2018 |

A landmark 2015 study by the Mayo Clinic found half of the physicians in America struggle with burnout.

Playwright Michael Milligan spent the last couple years asking doctors around the country why? In his new play, “Side Effects,” Milligan shares the answers he received through the fictionalized account of one doctor’s struggle.

SIDE EFFECTS POSTER“Side Effects” will make its Cattaraugus County debut Saturday, April 14, at 7 p.m. in St. Bonaventure University’s Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts. The performance of the one-man play will be followed by a panel conversation with several health care officials: Gilbert Witte, M.D., pulmonologist; Danielle Kwakye-Berko, M.D., primary care physician; and Kevin Watkins, M.D., M.P.H., director of the Cattaraugus County Department of Health. The panel will be moderated by Athena Godet-Calogeras, chairperson of the Health Care Access Coalition. The program is free and open to the public.

“Side Effects” follows Dr. William MacQueen, a family practice physician on the brink of burnout. Caught between his ambition to become the healer his father once exemplified and the corporatization of his chosen profession, William must reconcile the art and business of medicine, or be forced to lose his practice. “Side Effects” reveals the human side of those who heal us, throwing light onto the turmoil that remains out of sight from the examination table.

Milligan’s interest in physicians’ struggles developed while he was touring his other solo play, “Mercy Killers.”

“I was spending a lot of time on tour with doctors and nurses,” Milligan says. “I started to notice similar frustrations and complaints all over the country. I found people’s stories very moving and felt compelled to share their struggles with the public. So, I started to do formal interviews wherever I toured and read everything I could get my hands on.”

An ethicist at the Mayo told him about diagnostic terminology that has developed for what he was hearing about; he called it “moral distress.”

“When I heard that phrase, it resonated with what I was hearing in interviews,” Milligan said. “The medical literature says that ‘moral distress occurs when one knows the ethically correct action to take but feels powerless to take that action.’ Healthcare is more bureaucratized and corporatized every year. Decisions are increasingly influenced by claims analysts, hospital administrators, and entitlement bureaucrats. ‘Side Effects’ is a meditation on the resulting conflicts of interest that arise and their personal impacts on both patients AND doctors.”

Milligan continued: “For me, theater and medicine are complementary. When our bodies are sick, we go to a doctor for a diagnosis and treatment. But where do we go when there is a sickness in society, in our collective psyche? The origins of dramatic art, of tragedy, deal with that kind of illness. By bearing witness to the ills that afflict us as a community, we are given new emotional and symbolic resources to recognize and treat them.”

“Michael (Milligan) performed his one-man play, ‘Mercy Killers,’ at St. Bonaventure University in 2013 and the audience responded well to his performance,” said Godet-Calogeras. “He is an incredibly talented actor who is using those talents to tackle very real problems with our health care system in the U.S.”

The performance is sponsored by the Health Care Access Coalition, St. Bonaventure's Clare College and the university's Visiting Scholar Committee. For more information, visit the website: www.healthcareaccesscoalition.com or call 716-372-3348.

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About Michael Milligan:
Milligan is a performer who has been writing and actingfor 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 on Jerusalem. No stranger to the one man show, Milligan performed Will Eno’s Thom Pain Off Broadway. Milligan received his training from Juilliard where he won the John Houseman Prize for excellence in classical drama. He has performed the bard’s works with the Shakespeare Theater, Royal Shakespeare Company, Shakespeare and Company, Cincinnati Playhouse,  Shakespeare Sedona and Santa Cruz, St. Louis Rep, the Utah, Alabama, Illinois, Colorado Shakespeare Festivals, Milwaukee Shakes, Shakespeare Festival of St. Louis, and New Jersey Shakespeare in roles as diverse as Hamlet, Mercutio, Romeo, Angelo, Cassio, Dromio, Lucentio, Antipholus, Mark Antony, Edgar, Orlando, as well as many spear carriers and various shrubbery movers. Milligan is a sometime instructor of Shakespeare at the Stella Adler Studio of Acting. He has also appeared at many of the nation’s top regional theaters including the Guthrie, Westport Country Playhouse, Charlotte Rep, The McCarter Theater, and Folger Theatre in Washington D.C.

About the Health Care Access Coalition:
Believing in health care as a right, the Health Care Access Coalition works to promote affordable, comprehensive, and quality health care for all through education and advocacy. We engage in actions that address specific health care needs in rural Cattaraugus County as well as advocate at both the state and national levels for the legislative/systemic change necessary to bring about universal health care. Whenever possible, we work collaboratively with other coalitions, organizations, and individuals in the Southern Tier to develop the collective power that can help effect change.

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