Dave Weigel, at Bloomberg Politics:
On August 9, 2014, the day that Ferguson, Mo. teenager Michael Brown was shot and killed by police officer Darren Wilson, Phelim McAleer was watching a play. The Irish journalist-turned-filmmaker was taking in “verbatim drama” at Edinburgh’s annual Fringe Festival. He didn’t really see coverage of the happenings in Ferguson until they had made it into the European media, as a straightforward tale of violence against an unarmed black man who’d had his hands up.
“When it’s simplified like that you can see there’s something wrong with the story,” McAleer says. “If I’d been in the United States, I might have seen the details come out one by one. In the U.K. the story was presented in a storybook way. From the moment I saw it, I thought: That’s a great, great story. Therefore, it’s too good to be true.”
McAleer is attempting to correct that by staging a play. Ferguson, which will play at Los Angeles’s Odyssey Theater next month, adapts the grand jury materials from the case into an interactive drama…
“It’s going to be a dramatized stage reading,” says McAleer. “Witnesses are going to describe what happened, just as they described it in the grand jury room. We’re going to have cast at least 13 people, playing 20 different characters. Very interestingly, the one cast member who won’t be there is Michael Brown, because he didn’t give evidence before the grand jury. He couldn’t. So he’ll be a spectral, ghostlike presence. He won’t be there, but his picture won’t be there. The documents accompany the testimony will be on a large screen.”…
The dramatic goal: Getting the audience to live out the roles of jury members. Performances will end with the audience voting, through some electronic focus-group-style mechanism, on whether charges should be brought against Wilson.
A call to Benjamin Crump, the attorney representing Brown’s family, was not immediately returned….
From the Deadline story:
… “There are 5,000 separate documents in the grand jury testimony and there are 20 different perspectives from law enforcement and forensic experts, but a lot of it was from eyewitness testimony and even Brown’s friend,” said McAleer. “There were liars on both sides and everyone I’ve shown the script to were shocked by the details of it that they didn’t know.”
Why did he decide to do a staged reading of the grand jury testimony? “I’m a journalist originally so that is my first love. That is where my heart is covering crime and bringing the truth to life so it is a natural extension of that,” he said. McAleer previously covered the conflict in Northern Ireland for The Irish News and UK’s Sunday Times. He was also a foreign correspondent with the Financial Times and The Economist covering the post-communist chaos in Eastern Europe. He is currently a regular columnist for the New York Post…
As the boilerplate would have it, No stranger to controversy. McAleer’s first “independent” film was the pro-fracking FrackNation, and he’s now producing an anti-abortion film called Gosnell. But it looks like Ferguson may be his first truthiness experiment in front of a live audience. Whether or not it succeeds (and however McAleer defines ‘success’ here), I suspect it’s a bid to jump into the front ranks of the top-dollar Wingnut Wurlitzer performers.