Truth vs. Fact: ‘The Lifespan of a Fact’ Comes to The Rep

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Stories about journalism often make for good inspiration for the screen or the stage, and one doesn’t have to look too far for examples. In 2017, “The Post” premiered, starring Meryl Streep as the first female publisher of a major American newspaper and Tom Hanks as the paper’s executive editor. The film details the Washington Post’s race against The New York Times to expose a government cover-up. Streep won an Academy Award for Best Actress, and the film itself took home Best Picture at the awards ceremony.

The latest journalistic scandal to take the stage is “The Lifespan of a Fact,” which details the half-decade, fiery correspondence between an author and fact-checker. As the final deadline looms, hard facts square off against emotional truths in a funny and searing high-stakes showdown. Fresh off its 2018 hit run on Broadway (which starred the famed Daniel Radcliffe), the play comes to St. Louis for The Repertory Theatre’s 2019-2020 season.

Written by Jeremy Kareken, David Murrell and Gordon Farrell, “The Lifespan of a Fact” is based on the book of the same name by John D’Agata and John Fingal. A celebrated author, D’Agata has just written a sublime and shattering magazine essay. But is the story true? When the world’s most neurotically precise fact-checker, John Fingal, starts dissecting the author’s work, it begins to split at the seams.

The book includes a compilation of D’Agata and Fingal’s more-than-five-year correspondence about D’Agata’s essay about a teenager who committed suicide by jumping from a Las Vegas casino in 2003. The story was originally commissioned by Harper’s, but it was pulled for factual inaccuracies. He then sold the story to The Believer, where Fingal was an intern assigned to fact-check his essay. Fingal pored over the story with a fine-tooth comb, inquiring about details that are at times insignificant and other times, by his accounts, unethical. D’Agata chalks the inaccuracies up to a sort of creative liberty. In his opinion, it is not journalism; it is an essay, which should be allowed some artistic freedom.

Billed as timely, terrific and funny by Variety, “The Lifespan of a Fact” is a humorous, provocative look at the tension between truth vs. fact, certain to keep you talking the whole ride home. The play adds to The Rep’s rich history of providing varied opportunities for learning about the human experience through the art of theater.

Tickets are on sale now for shows Oct. 16-Nov. 10 at The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis in the Loretto-Hilton Center in Webster Groves.

Featured image of Griffin Osborne, Perri Gaffney and Brian Slaten in “The Lifespan of a Fact,” courtesy of Patrick Lanham.

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