According to Broadway World, last Sunday marked closing night for the controversial play Ferguson by filmmaker Phelim McAleer at a theater on 30th Street. The play featured a diverse cast and the script consists entirely of verbatim grand jury testimony taken from the Michael Brown shooting case against white police officer Darren Wilson.
At the closing night curtain, cast member Cedric Benjamin, who plays Michael Brown's friend Dorian Johnson, urged the standing room audience to turn on their phone and record him as he addressed what he considered to be an unbalanced presentation of the facts.
Benjamin was shut down by director Jerry Dixon, who called the actor "unprofessional" and ordered him to stop and told the cast the performance was over and they were "dismissed. " Playwright McAleer said, "This was a cheap HAMILTON moment, I find it insulting and exclusionary."
The Hamilton reference is to an incident in which one of the Broadway play's actors lectured Mike Pence, who was in the audience, about the Vice President's responsibility to govern on behalf of all Americans.
"The cast reluctantly left the stage," Broadway World continued, "but the heated discussion between the playwright (McAleer), director (Dixon) and cast spilled into the lobby and ultimately onto 30th street."
In the video above, you can see cast member Benjamin lecturing the crowd with misleading statistics before director Dixon, who is also black, steps in. Afterward, the conflict continued on the sidewalk outside, where Benjamin accused playwright McAleer of white arrogance - because using only facts and evidence is apparently a strategy of arrogant white people:
"I'm tired of these activists spouting talking points," said McAleer told Broadway World. "If they think my play FERGUSON misrepresents the Grand Jury testimony - they need to create their own play, but they never do because any reasonable fair reading of the transcripts show that Darren Wilson was justified in shooting Michael Brown who was on a crime spree that day."
McAleer added, "There were a lot of conservatives in that audience. They came to see a play - not some cliched lecture from an actor who showed his intolerance clear and plain...
"[T]he curtain call speech was breaking the agreement he had with the audience - FERGUSON is a verbatim play. I have told the audience that they will only hear what the Grand Jury heard. For Cedric Benjamin and others to suddenly introduce other statements to the theater is wrong, insulting to the audience and breaks a sacred bond with that audience. It was also totally unprofessional. I'm just sorry he spoiled the evening for the audience."
The New York run was a world premiere of the show's full performance and had been showing to sold-out crowds without incident until Sunday.
In an email, McAleer declared,
I think Cedric Benjamin--part of the New York "elite"--is the one who is arrogant. How dare he dismiss all those minority voices just because what they witnessed doesn't square with his political beliefs.
I am glad they were shut down, because I'm tired of these coastal elites attacking and insulting Broadway and Hollywood audiences. I was inspired to bring FERGUSON to New York after the disgraceful way the cast of Hamilton treated Vice President Pence when they lectured him from the stage. They were sending a clear message to conservatives--to half the country, basically--you're not welcome in our audience, and we certainly don't want you producing or writing plays. That’s why I brought FERGUSON to New York. Such exclusion and intolerance is unacceptable.
I will go on fighting just like I did when the actors walked out during rehearsal for the staged reading in LA. If you want to help, go to FergusonThePlay.com and help me bring the play back to New York for a longer run in a bigger venue. We can't run away. We must stand up to these bullies.