Broadway Actor Present for Performance of Phaeton
Michael Milligan, an actor in the Tony Award-winning Broadway play August: Osage County, was on hand December 8, 2008, to see the first public performance of his adaptation of the ancient Greek myth Phaeton by the Saint Peter’s College Greek Theater Project. The play was directed and narrated by Casey Groves, an adjunct faculty member at Saint Peter’s, in the Roy Irving Theatre on the College’s Jersey City campus.
Milligan wrote Phaeton in iambic pentameter over a five-year period. The play is based on the myth of Phaeton, son of Apollo, who wildly drove the sun chariot across the sky, scorching both the earth and the heavens. The tale investigates emotions and relationships between visionaries and tyrants, as well as between fathers, mothers, sons and lovers.
Three sets of students and faculty members adroitly performed the three-act play, changing roles. Social Justice Program Coordinator Anna Brown, Ph.D., who herself played the role of a nurse in the play, said the purpose of the rotation was to immerse the students in the play through acting.
Apparently, it worked. Student-actor Amanda Staub ’09 believes that by taking on the role of Phaeton’s mother, Clymene, she can now empathize with others in that situation. “The character sacrificed everything for her son, even selling her body. Although it was something I’ve never experienced, not having children, I have a better appreciation for my mother and all single parents who sacrifice something just so their child can have a better life.”
Student-actor Daniel Shea ‘09 had this perspective: “Being a philosophy major and classics minor, I learned from performing in Phaeton that writings and myths considered to be classics are not necessarily lost to antiquity. The playwright of Phaeton takes classical myth and puts a different and very powerful interpretation on it.
“I played Apollo in the performance and my particular scene was a very different and exciting experience because Apollo is written both as a god and a father, which allows him to move beyond the immortal and to begin to comprehend the feelings of mortals,” Shea said.
The art of Tai Chi and a mutual friend are the links that connect Milligan with Saint Peter’s College and the mythological tale. Their meeting is itself an act of fate. Milligan and Groves, who is also an actor and a playwright, first met in a Tai Chi class during a “push-hands” exercise, where awareness and reaction often triumph over force and aggression.
They met again when a friend of Groves told him to come to the reading of a play that would work well for the Greek Theater Project. When Groves showed up for the reading, Milligan was also there. The name of the play was Phaeton, which Milligan was adapting for play form. The two of them then collaborated to bring the script to the members of the project.
Milligan is a native of Columbus, Ohio, and studied acting at The Juilliard School in New York City.