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Why I Fight

Detail from portrait by Rives Wiley.

Due to the University of Michigan campus response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Why I Fight performances, panels and related events are all postponed until March 18-21, 2021. 


Why I Fight, a theatrical adaptation of the 2019 Michigan Quarterly Review novelette by James Munro Leaf, dramatizes the perils of being defined by a mental illness and being caught in the psychiatric system. It probes the presumption of labels and the complex dynamics of power, dehumanization, and abuse in clinical settings. Creative director Gillian Eaton and actor Malcolm Tulip, faculty of the U-M School of Music, Theatre & Dance, engage students in this production at U-M Residential College’s Keene Theater (dates TBA). 

Based on collaboration with the U-M Heinz C. Prechter Bipolar Research Program and other University units, panels on mental illness and the arts follow each performance. Panelists will expand on themes in Why I Fight and invite conversation with audience members. Individuals and family members who live with mental illness; U-M faculty conducting psycho-social, public health, and biomedical research; and practitioners in the arts will explore the roles of creativity and the outdoors in healing. Dr. Melvin McInnis, Director of the Prechter Program, and other U-M mental health experts, will moderate the panels.

A catered reception and information tables for community resources in the arts and mental health follow each performance.

Check out this short video exploring mental health obstacles that U-M students face with the healing power of the arts, created by Sophia Liu and Kelly Zhu under the guidance of Liz Goodenough:


Why I Fight events are for those who want to 

  • ask questions about research and treatments for mental illness
  • explore the relationship between mental illness and the impact of the arts in healing
  • support family members, friends, and students with mental illness
  • prevent suicide among young adults
  • shift the legal system towards more humane interventions

Our partners are:

  • Residential College
  • School of Music, Theatre & Dance (SMTD)
  • Heinz C. Prechter Bipolar Research Program
  • Michigan Quarterly Review

Sponsors contributing $1,000 or more are (as of 3/6/20):

  • Center for Research on Learning and Teaching (CRLT)
  • College of Literature, Science and the Arts (LSA) Dean's Office
  • Department of Psychology, LSA
  • Division of Student Life
  • Honors Program, LSA
  • MCubed
  • Michigan Medicine
  • Office of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (ODEI)
  • Office of the Associate Dean for Social Sciences, LSA
  • Office of the Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education, LSA
  • Rackham Graduate School
  • Sally and Ian Bund
  • School of Social Work
  • Stephanie Wenner Warburg
  • U-M Office of Research (UMOR)

Sponsors contributing up to $1,000 are (as of 3/6/20):

  • ArtsEngine
  • David and Karen Ufer
  • English Language Institute (ELI), LSA
  • Global Scholars Program (GSP), LSA
  • Health Sciences Scholars Program, LSA
  • Institute for the Humanities
  • Lloyd Scholars for Writing and the Arts, LSA
  • Nathaniel G. Butler
  • School of Nursing
  • University Housing