‘Ferguson’: New Play Makes Audience the Judge in Michael Brown Shooting

March 30th, 2015 1:23 PM

A new play aims to tell what the media didn’t: what really happened in Ferguson August 9, 2014. 

As the first dramatization of the Michael Brown shooting, Ferguson draws from grand-jury witness testimony to reveal the truth about the Ferguson, Mo. police shooting. The play hits the stage April 26 through 29 at the Odyssey Theatre in Los Angeles – and asks the audience to play jury. 

Presented by Theater Verité Collective, Ferguson was written by journalist and documentary filmmaker Phelim McAleer and will be staged by award-winning director Nick DeGruccio. The two will present Ferguson in the “verbatim” or “truth” theater style, based on Tricycle Theater’s popular Tribunal Plays in London. In other words, Ferguson’s audience will receive “unaltered testimony, exactly as the Ferguson grand jury heard it,” McAleer’s press release read.

The release also recognized Ferguson as the “first dramatization” of the shooting that incited riots, “with protestors claiming that white police officer Wilson shot black teenager Brown as he was surrendering with his hands up” – a debunked claim the media spread wide and far.

In an interview with MRC Culture, McAleer said the inspiration for the play was “[t]he desire to let as many people as possible know the truth.” The play will present the people involved as “living human beings,” he said, rather than “statistics or political slogans.” 

“There are a lot of myths and half-truths around about the shooting,” he explained. “It’s important that these are dispelled and that people make decisions based on the truth, not half-truths or exaggerations,” that gullible or agenda-driven news reporting and commentary generated. 

“The media was too quick to believe and not skeptical enough,” McAleer said, and “had a tendency to act as stenographers not investigators.” 

As for the media reception of his own reenactment, McAleer admitted, “I honestly haven't a clue." “I’m hoping they will recognize that this is an artistic and journalistic exercise and will be important in bringing clarity to the situation.”

McAleer hopes to raise $93,000 for the play through crowdfunding site Indiegogo located at FergusonThePlay.com. “This is a story that deserves to be told,” McAleer wrote on Indiegogo, “[a]nd FERGUSON shows the audience something the media won't: The Truth.” 

No stranger to crowdfunding, McAleer previously used Indiegogo to fund the site’s most successful movieGosnell, a crime drama on convicted Philadelphia abortionist Kermit Gosnell. McAleer also used Kickstarter to fund his fracking documentary FrackNation.