These are professional actors reading the actual words of eyewitnesses detailing minute by minute what happened in the run up to the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. FERGUSON the play consists of unaltered witness testimony, exactly as the Ferguson grand jury heard it. It includes forensic and medical examiner evidence that proves the truth and debunks the liars.
You probably haven’t missed the many and loud claims that the entertainment industry is racist and not diverse. It seems that “everyone who matters” agrees that diversity is a problem. Or at least that’s what they say.
But the reality is very different as I found when I wrote a play that offered ten roles for black men and women and even three significant roles for black women over 40 – which everyone agrees can be a career death zone for women (of all races).
And as a “diversity bonus” the play was going to be about an issue that of huge significance to the black community – it was called FERGUSON and was about the shooting of Michael Brown, a young black man by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri.
And this was to be no whitesplaining of the issue. I wrote, or rather curated, the play only using actual Grand Jury testimony of witnesses (most of them black). I didn’t change their testimony at all. Not a paragraph, word or comma was added. It was to be a minute by minute account by multiple eyewitnesses of the last hours of Michael Brown’s life. I decided to have a staged reading of the script over four nights at the Odyssey Theater in Santa Monica. It would be a great way for people to finally hear the truth about Ferguson – in the words of the people who witnessed the whole incident.
It was also clear, again from black eyewitnesses, that police officer Darren Wilson had no choice but to shoot Brown who was on a mini-crime rampage that morning.
The cast were enthusiastic at the auditions – there was a huge interest in the play – at last the truth about Ferguson and the shooting of Michael Brown would come out. Their enthusiasm lasted until the end of the first rehearsal. According to an LA Times reporter who was present many of the actors were aghast that the truth from eyewitnesses and forensic experts didn’t match their idea of what really happened or what they read in the media. It was clear from the eyewitness testimony that Michael Brown didn’t have his hands up surrendering as activists claimed. It was also clear, again from black eyewitnesses, that police officer Darren Wilson had no choice but to shoot Brown who was on a mini-crime rampage that morning.
These facts did not please the actors who wanted to tell a different story. However this was Verbatim Theater – the story could only be told in the words of the witnesses. But the actors did not want to hear the genuine voices – even if they were black and under oath. Nine of the original 13 actors walked out. Most of them were black. Then a few of the white cast walked out in sympathy – one just 24 hours before the performance opened.
Their walkout made a mockery of claims that there is a need for more diverse roles in the entertainment industry. This was a predominantly black cast in a play about a topic that was about an issue – police shootings of black men – that was of enormous interest to the black community.
In reality what activists obviously meant was that they wanted black roles that pushed a left/liberal agenda. They may have wanted the actors faces to be a diverse color but they so did not want diversity of thought or ideas to be presented on the stage. No – those ideas had to be shut down. And it’s not as if those ideas don’t get a lot of interest. The staged reading of Ferguson – over a four night run – in a 99-seat theater was one of the most talked about plays of the year in Los Angeles. As a writer for liberal LA Weekly put it FERGUSON achieved something “almost unheard of in L.A.’s stage community — it moved theater from the arts section to the front page.”
Despite the walkout I was determined the Show Would Go On. Eventually we hired replacement cast for all the actors and the play was staged for its planned four night run. It was an enormous success.
Now that is true diversity!
To ensure the truth about Ferguson reaches as big an audience as possible I have now filmed the staged reading.
Please enjoy it. The truth is compelling.