'Ferguson' writer wants to take play to Ferguson, Mo., and beyond

'Ferguson' play could be heading to Ferguson, Mo., if writer Phelim McAleer gets his wish

Despite a rocky debut in Los Angeles, the author of a controversial new play about the incidents in Ferguson, Mo., is planning to bring the production to that beleaguered city, and possibly television and beyond.

Playwright and filmmaker Phelim McAleer said in an interview Wednesday that he would like to take the play to Ferguson so that people there can see what he believes to be a truthful telling of the events.

"They deserve the truth more than anyone else," he said. 

"Ferguson," which premiered Sunday as a staged reading at the Odyssey Theatre in West L.A., is based on transcripts of the grand jury that investigated last year's shooting death of Michael Brown, an 18-year-old black man, by white police officer Darren Wilson. In November, the grand jury decided not to indict Wilson for the death of Brown.

The play nearly capsized when some actors in the L.A. production quit after disagreements with the writer over a script that they said was overly sympathetic to Wilson. The stage piece debuted on Sunday, but theater critics were told that they were not welcome.

McAleer is a right-leaning filmmaker and journalist whose past credits include the documentaries "Not Evil Just Wrong," which examines the effects of the environmental movement on developing communities, and "FrackNation," about his interactions with anti-fracking activists.

McAleer said he wants the play to travel to other cities including New York.

"I really want to take it on the road and that requires money," he said.

He also said he is planning to record the play so that it will be available free on YouTube, and that he is pursuing a live TV broadcast of the stage piece.

The playwright had planned to record the L.A. production and put it on the Internet, but he ultimately decided against it. He said the play will be recorded without an audience and that it will be available online, but he provided no dates.

As for TV, he said that he has spoken with production executives from independent companies as a possible project.

The cast walkouts occurred as the play was preparing for its premiere in L.A. 

"They perceived my politics as being 'other,'" McAleer said Wednesday.

"I am disappointed that so many actors who believe themselves to be so brave and embrace diversity and controversy ran a mile the first time someone brought diversity of opinion into the theater."

Veralyn Jones, an African American cast member who resigned, told The Times last week that the playwright wrote this "to try to get to the truth of it, but everybody's truth is totally subjective." 

On the play's official website, McAleer said that the cast walkouts were "incredibly disruptive" and appealed to the public for donations. An online fundraising campaign for the play has raised close to $100,000 in the last month. 

A reading of the play on Sunday proceeded relatively smoothly without incident, The Times reported. However, the playwright said he was confronted Monday by an individual who took issue with his approach to the material. The exchange is on YouTube and can be seen here. (Warning: The video contains explicit language.)

Twitter: @DavidNgLAT      

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times

Update

April 30, 5:30 p.m.: A second reference to the opening day of the play "Ferguson" indicated it was Friday. It was Sunday.

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