UPDATE September 18: Adds Los Angeles director Nick DeGruccio and clarifies the attribution of a quote regarding “no spin,” below.
UPDATE Wednesday afternoon, with more information throughout.
EXCLUSIVE: Ferguson, a play comprising Grand Jury testimony in the shooting death of Michael Brown by police officer Darren Brown, will have its New York premiere in a limited run beginning October 19 at the 30th Street Theater, a small off-off-Broadway venue. If, that is, the presenting company can raise the money to hire a cast and creative team.
The play, by Phelim McAleer, a conservative-leaning journalist and filmmaker (FrackNation) and staged in Los Angeles by Nick DeGruccio (the New York production is to be directed by Jerry Dixon), prompted an actors’ walkout when it began rehearsals in Los Angeles two years ago. Cast members and others who read the script felt uncomfortable in what they described as a play overly sympathetic to the police officer, who was not charged with criminal wrongdoing.
The proposed run, presented by Theatre Verite Collective, will officially open October 23 and end November 5. The company has not yet announced a cast or creative team.
Ferguson recreates the evidence and examines what happened on August 9, 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri. The play is a staged version of the testimony as it was heard it in the courtroom with, according to McAleer, “no spin. No media filter. No fake news. Just the testimony presented during the hearing to the jury.” The conclusion prompted demonstrations, some violent, around the country.
During rehearsals for a staged reading in L.A. in 2015, nine members of the cast walked out, complaining about the script even though it was based on unchanged eyewitness testimony of those who actually saw the shooting of Michael Brown. Despite the cast walkouts and controversy, it was well-received by critics. The shooting was one of the most explosive in recent years and led to the founding of the Black Lives Matter movement after claims that Brown was shot in cold blood surrendering with his hands up pleading not to be shot.
“When we did the workshop in 2015, we had a lot of people trying to shut us down,” the playwright told Deadline, “even though we use actual testimony, this is an anti-establishment play, which is why we are looking to crowdfunding to get this show up and heard.” McAleer and his wife and producing partner Ann McElhinney have successfully used crowdsourcing sites, including Kickstarter and Indiegogo, to finance several large-scale projects, including FrackNation, which was a response to Josh Fox’s anti-fracking film Gasland 2.