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. Other people can write columns about what the coverage of Ferguson got wrong, or that the rallying cry of “hands up, don’t shoot” was contradicted by evidence. McAleer will put that on stage.