American Theater Company's 30th Season to Open with Chicago Premieres from Anna Deavere Smith, Michael Milligan

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American Theater Company's 30th Season to Open with Chicago Premieres from Anna Deavere Smith, Michael Milligan

American Theater Company (ATC) kicks off its 30th Anniversary season with two Chicago premieres exploring healthcare in America: Anna Deavere Smith's documentary Let Me Down Easy featuring ATC Ensemble Member Usman Ally, and Mercy Strain by Michael Milligan, top prize winner at the 2013 Edinburgh Festival. ATC's production is the first time Let Me Down Easy will be performed by an artist other than Deavere Smith.

Single tickets for Let Me Down Easy (Sept. 13-Oct. 10) and Mercy Strain (Sept. 14-Oct. 18) at American Theater Company, 1909 W. Byron Street, range from $38-$48 and are available by calling the ATC box office at 773-409-4125, or visiting www.atcweb.org. Subscription packages are also available.

"These plays address of-the-moment healthcare issues: Easy beautifully presents choices and situations we eventually all will face, all will experience, and Mercy focuses in depth on one man's journey to navigate the American insurance system," says Artistic Director PJ Paparelli. "ATC has a history of presenting plays in dialogue with one another, and these productions will spark a much-needed dialogue about a universal American issue."

Actress and documentarian Anna Deavere Smith (The West Wing, Nurse Jackie) interviewed more than 300 subjects for Let Me Down Easy, a 90-minute humorous and heart-wrenching look at 19 diverse Americans on the road toward the end-from cyclist Lance Armstrong to former Texas Governor Ann Richards. The production is directed by Bonnie Metzgar and features ATC Ensemble Member Usman Ally (Disgraced).

Broadway actor Michael Milligan's Mercy Strain, directed at ATC by Tom Oppenheim, follows the harrowing journey of one man, Joe, a body shop owner and Rush Limbaugh listener whose life begins to fall apart when his beloved wife is diagnosed with cancer. When his insurance cannot cover his wife's treatments, Joe rapidly descends into bankruptcy and divorce to qualify for Medicare. Mercy Strain is supported in part by the Illinois Single Payer Coalition, Physicians for a National Health Program, and National Nurses United.

Anna Deavere Smith, actress/playwright, is said to have created a new theater form. Prizes include the MacArthur fellowship and the Gish Prize, two Tony nominations and others. In 2012, President Obama awarded her the National Endowment for the Humanities Medal. She was runner-up for the Pulitzer Prize for her play Fires in the Mirror. Her most recent one person show Let Me Down Easy, toured the US and was broadcast on Great Performances. In popular culture, you have seen her in Nurse Jackie, The West Wing, Rachel Getting Married, The American President, Philadelphia, others. She is University Professor at NYU and Founding Director, Anna Deavere Smith Works which supports artists from around the world whose work addresses issues of social justice.

Michael Milligan has appeared on Broadway as Little Charles in August: Osage County, De Bries in La Bete (also on the West End), and as a 'raver' and understudy on Jerusalem. No stranger to the one man show, Milligan performed Will Eno's title role of 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, world premiere of The Empty Ocean (Harold Clurman Theater Lab) and Nightlands (New Georges). Since training at Juilliard where he won the John Houseman Prize, Milligan has performed Shakespeare around the country and the UK with the Shakespeare Theater, Royal Shakespeare Company, Shakespeare and Company, Cincinatti Playhouse, St. Louis Rep, the Utah, Alabama, Illinois and Colorado Shakespeare Festivals, Milwaukee Shakes, Shakespeare Festival of St. Louis, and New Jersey Shakespeare. Milligan is a sometime instructor of Shakespeare at the Stella Adler Studio of Acting in New York. 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. Michael's other plays include Phaeton, Heroine, The Sea Wolf, Urgent: Aliens and a musical adaptation of Aesop's Fables.

Usman Ally is an award-winning actor from Chicago, most well known for originating the lead role of Amir in the 2013 Pulitzer Prize-winning Disgraced at American Theater Company, for which he received a Joseph Jefferson Best Actor Nomination. He also originated the role of Bagheera in Mary Zimmerman's The Jungle Book (Goodman Theatre, Huntington Theatre) for which he won Best Actor in a Musical at the IRNE Awards in Boston. He is a TCG/Fox Foundation Fellow, and was part of the World Premiere cast of the award-winning The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity at the Victory Gardens Theater, which he later reprised Off-Broadway at Second Stage, and at the Geffen Playhouse. TV and Film credits include Star Trek Into Darkness, Madam Secretary (CBS), Damages (Audience Network), Chicago Code (Fox), Boss (Starz), Blue Bloods (CBS), Mind Games (ABC), and Person of Interest (CBS). He has worked at the nation's most reputable theatres including the Goodman, Steppenwolf, Huntington, Lookingglass, Arena Stage, Lyric Opera among many others in Chicago and around the country. He is an ensemble member of American Theater Company in Chicago. He holds an MFA Magna Cum Laude in Acting from the University of Florida.

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