‘Ferguson’ Playwright Fires Back at Criticism: ‘I Will Not Be Shut Down or Censored’

AP Photo/Jeff Roberson
AP Photo/Jeff Roberson

Phelim McAleer, writer and producer of the upcoming Ferguson theatrical play, is firing back at criticism from writer Kevin O’Keeffe, who contended in a blog post this week that the playwright’s stage adaptation of the shooting of Michael Brown will “reignite racial tensions.”

Writing at the Arts.mic blog, O’Keeffe charged that McAleer’s stage recreation of Ferguson teeenager Michael Brown’s shooting by police officer Darren Wilson last summer is an “incredibly frustrating provocation of the past.”

“Unfortunately, while the goal may seem admirable, this play is an experiment in audience participation that is destined to fail,” O’Keeffe wrote Wednesday. “Though McAleer told Bloomberg that he has no agenda when it comes to the play, that he just wants to tell ‘the truth,’ this project feels like a powder keg ready to reignite racial tensions.”

McAleer, who previously produced the documentary FrackNation and is currently at work on the upcoming Gosnell film, said O’Keeffe’s “desire to shut down the truth is appalling.”

“He is an ideological gatekeeper posing as a critic,” McAleer said. “This is a call for a ‘heckler’s veto’ on the arts. Or in this case a ‘rioter’s veto.’ I will not be shut down or censored by people threatening violence. If people don’t like to hear the truth then it’s not my fault if they react with violence.”

McAleer will base the Ferguson play’s styling on Verbatim Theatre, a genre of theater popularized in London that constructs stories based on exact, official witness accounts of events. In this case, McAleer’s play will use evidence presented to the grand jury in Ferguson to meticulously reconstruct the events surrounding the August 9, 2014 shooting of Brown.

Assuming McAleer sticks to this principle of Verbatim Theatre, there will be no editorializing presented in the play.

“This is what theatre should be all about,” McAleer said. “It’s why I wrote the play – to ask provocative questions. I want to take Ferguson on the road so lots of people can hear the truth.”

Ferguson is currently scheduled to run for four nights at Los Angeles’ Odyssey Theater between April 26-29. Due to the controversial nature of his work, McAleer is raising funds on crowdfunding platform Indiegogo to fund the production. Fans can go to FergusonThePlay.com to secure tickets to the performances.


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