Lantern Theater Company presents Philadelphia Premiere of THE LIFESPAN OF A FACT, Feb. 2 – March 5, 2023

-Courtesy of Lantern Theater Company

Lantern Theater Company continues its 2022/23 season with the Philadelphia premiere of The Lifespan of a Fact by writers Jeremy KarekenDavid Murrell, and Gordon Farrell. Award-winning director and actor Matt Pfeiffer returns to the Lantern, directing a cast that includes Ian Merrill PeakesTrevor William Fayle, and Joanna LiaoThe Lifespan of a Fact runs Thursday, February 2 through Sunday, March 5, 2023, at St. Stephen’s Theater, the Lantern’s resident venue.

Hailed as “terrifically engaging,” “ingenious,” and “invigorating and unsettling,” by The New York TimesThe Hollywood Reporter, and Vulture, respectively, The Lifespan of a Fact pits a famous writer, a magazine editor, and a lowly fact-checker against one another in an epic battle over the meaning of words, truth, and art. Based on the 2012 book by John D’Agata and Jim Fingal – the real-life writer and fact-checker – this comedy explores meaningful questions about art versus truth and when art is more ‘truthful’ than facts. 

The Lifespan of a Fact is a play, based on a book, based on an essay. In 2003, Harper’s Magazine commissioned John D’Agata to write an essay on the suicide of Las Vegas teen Levi Presley. The final product, titled “What Happens There,” was based on D’Agata’s experience researching the event and creatively explored the culture of tourism and suicide in Las Vegas. Harper’s pulled the essay from publication due to factual inaccuracies; after seven years of fact-checking by Jim Fingal, it was published in The Believer on January 1, 2010. D’Agata and Fingal collaborated to write The Lifespan of a Fact – the book – which was published by W.W. Norton & Company in 2012. The book combines the essay itself with Fingal’s extensive and meticulous fact-checking notes in a fascinating debate on fact versus fiction and which is more valuable in the search for truth. 

The Lifespan of a Fact – the play adapted by Jeremy Kareken, David Murrell, and Gordon Farrell – opened on Broadway in 2018 starring Bobby Cannavale as D’Agata, Daniel Radcliffe as Fingal, and Cherry Jones as Emily Penrose, the fictional magazine editor caught between them. The Hollywood Reporter wrote of the play, “Ingenious… stinging relevance to so much of what’s been happening for years now in American social, cultural, and political discourse.” 

“I love this play,” said Matt Pfeiffer, who directs the Lantern’s production. “It’s a fantastic debate about what is the essential nature of truth. At this moment in time, we have an incredibly fraught relationship with facts. The play grapples and wrestles with how we perceive facts within a narrative. And since all of theater is essentially a fictional trick of artistry, I can think of no better place to tell the story. The Lantern has a great history of producing ethically complex plays that provoke and entertain in equal measure. I think this play fits perfectly in that cannon and the production will be a terrifically entertaining evening of theater.” 

Lantern Theater Company will delve deeper into the themes raised by The Lifespan of a Fact on its Lantern Searchlight blog, available online at lanterntheater.org/searchlight. Articles will be published throughout the production’s run, exploring the role of fact-checkers, the state of modern-day media, and a study of truth vs. facts, as well as behind the scenes interviews with the artists. 

Tickets for The Lifespan of a Fact are $25 – $42 and are available online at www.lanterntheater.org or by calling the Lantern Box Office at (215) 829-0395. Discounts are available for students, seniors 65 and up, U.S. military personnel, and groups of 10 or more. Performances of The Lifespan of a Fact will take place at St. Stephen’s Theater, located at 923 Ludlow Street in Center City Philadelphia. During the 2022/23 season, the Lantern will announce updated health and safety guidelines 30 days prior to the start of each production. For The Lifespan of a Fact, everyone other than the actors on stage must wear properly fitted masks at all times in all parts of the Lantern venue, including the performance space, lobby, restrooms, and stairwells. More information is available at lanterntheater.org/health-and-safety

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