Progressives know that history will be remembered, and thus the future will be shaped, not through textbooks but through dramatic treatments of historical events: movies, television, plays. That’s why left-leaning actors are quitting a new play, about the controversial shooting of Michael Brown by Officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri: because it doesn’t promote a narrative about the incident that suits the progressive agenda.
Ferguson is written and directed by the openly conservative Phelim McAleer, a man who is not intimidated by controversy or leftist fury. He is the filmmaker behind Not Evil Just Wrong (about the global warming hysteria), FrackNation (in which he takes on environmentalists and anti-fracking activists) and the upcoming Gosnell (about the mass-murdering abortionist, a film being scripted and directed, respectively, by writer Andrew Klavan and Justified actor Nick Searcy – also prominent conservatives).
The play is opening in Los Angeles, but McAleer also hopes to put the show on YouTube and bring the production to Ferguson itself. His goal with the play, as with all his work, is to rescue the truth from propaganda and shine a light on both.
The actors’ discomfort with the script is very revealing because, as McAleer puts it in an email he circulated in response to a Los Angeles Times article about the actors, “The script is comprised entirely of Grand Jury testimony. No added lines. Just the truth. But the play is Verbatim Theatre, word-for-word testimony heard by the Grand Jury. The only agenda is the truth.” Nowhere in the L.A. Times piece is this made clear about the script.
At the end of the play, the audience is invited to vote on whether Wilson should have been indicted. “This time the audience gets to be the Grand Jury,” McAleer wrote on the play’s Indiegogo crowdfunding page. “The performances in Los Angeles will be dramatized staged readings with interactive voting. Every night the audience will decide who’s telling the truth, decide who’s lying, and decide if they would indict Darren Wilson for the shooting of Michael Brown.”
One actor, Philip Casnoff, showed up for the first rehearsal of Ferguson without having even read the full script. He assumed that the testimony would consist of a variety of viewpoints that would, at the very least, reflect a “fog of war,” if not actually condemn Officer Wilson. But then he realized that the testimony didn’t bolster the “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” narrative that the left used to gin up angry protests nationwide; instead, it supports Wilson’s side of the story.
The play ends with the prosecutor asking a witness, “Do you feel like this could have ended up any other way?” The witness replies, “Yeah, it could have, if Michael Brown had just stopped running,” meaning running toward Wilson. “It could have ended another way. The officer had no other choice.”
The Times reported that after those lines were read in rehearsal, “an awkward quiet fell over the cast members.” Several members, the Times claimed, requested changes to the script that would add more balance to the final witness’ perspective, that would be more sympathetic to Brown. McAleer rejected those requests.
“It felt like the purpose of the piece was to show, ‘Of course he was not indicted — here’s why,’” actor Casnoff said. And when he learned that the playwright was an unapologetic conservative, Casnoff, who describes himself as “very liberal, left-wing-leaning,” thought, “Whoa, this is not the place for me to be.” He and four others of the 13-member cast quit the play.
“He claims that he wrote this to try to get to the truth of it, but everybody’s truth is totally subjective,” said a black actress who resigned. “When you come to the matter of what really happened, nobody really knows for sure, because everybody has a different take on it… It just didn’t feel right to me.”
It didn’t feel right to her because she wants to believe the shooting of Brown was racial injustice. But she’s wrong. Yes, people interpret events subjectively; that’s why the law requires evidence, and that’s why the claims of witnesses who told investigators that Brown had his hands up, was shot in the back while running, was shot while lying on the ground, etc. were recanted or debunked – because the physical evidence proved them false. “The truth is the truth,” says McAleer. “If it doesn’t fit in with their beliefs, they need to change their beliefs.”
Another actress, Donzaleigh Abernathy, the daughter of civil rights movement leader Ralph David Abernathy, asked a question in rehearsal that was often heard during the Ferguson investigation: “Why not shoot him in the leg?” It’s a question that never fails to elicit eye-rolling and head-shaking from law enforcement and anyone else who understands that violent confrontations don’t go down like they do on television.
The Times described Abernathy as one of the script’s most heated critics. Prior to a cast meeting with McAleer scheduled for last Thursday night, she said, “I want to hear what he has to say face to face. I actually want to know, on a moral level, how can you do something like this that you know will divide America? Does it make you feel good? Obviously he has a personal agenda. What is his personal agenda?”
Of course, what divided America over Ferguson was lies, not the truth. What divided America was the race-obsessed left’s opportunistic agenda, not McAleer’s. “These are people who claim to love diversity,” McAleer said, “and they don’t love diversity — they just want people to agree with them.” Or else.
McAleer is undaunted by the desertions. “I’m determined to fight this attempt at censorship by the theatre/Hollywood establishment,” he wrote on the Indiegogo page. “The show will go on. The truth about Ferguson will be told.” If the rest of what the Times describes as “the decidedly more liberal cast” quits — and some are threatening to — McAleer said he will find a new cast. “There’s got to be some actors in L.A. who aren’t scared of controversy,” he told the Times.
There are, but there aren’t that many who aren’t scared of the truth.
(This article originally appeared here on FrontPage Mag, 4/26/15)