project title

The Lifespan of a Fact

by Jeremy Kareken, David Murrell, and Gordon Farrell.
Fredonia PAC ~ Dramaturg ~ March 26th - 28th
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I thought I'd simply include my dramaturg's note for this production, as it summarize's the show and my thoughts rather well. Enjoy!


“Beautiful words are not true.” ~ Lao-tzu


There’s poetry in life; however, The Truth can only be stretched so far before it becomes a lie. The balance of poetry in a story and honoring The Truth of the story’s events encapsulates the delicate conflict in The Lifespan of a Fact.

In 2003, John D’Agata, an established contemporary American essayist, wrote a 15 page essay revolving around the suicide of 16 year old Las Vegas resident Levi Presley. In 2005, the essay was presented to a fresh-out-of-Harvard intern at a magazine to fact check. This intern was Jim Fingal. What was supposed to be a light fact check escalated into an incredibly detail-oriented dissection of D’Agata’s piece. This investigation over facts and lies based on non-fiction between Jim and John spanned over seven years. 


The result of this debate was the publication of the book The Lifespan of a Fact in 2012 by Fingal and D’Agata. The 123 page book follows Jim’s thorough fact-checking of John’s 15 page essay. The book is formatted with John’s essay in black text in the center of the page, surrounded by Jim’s fact checking notes and John’s responses to these notes in red. A majority of the 123 pages are filled with red text.

In 2018, the book was adapted into a Broadway play by Jeremy Kareken, David Murrell, and Gordon Farrell. The play starred Daniel Radcliffe as Jim Fingal, Bobby Cannavale as John D’Agata, and Cherry Jones as Emily Penrose, a fictional character loosely based on multiple magazine editors. The play condenses the original seven year story into a thrilling five days. While most of the events of the play are fictional, a majority of the text is taken from the 2012 book. 

Ultimately, the story of The Lifespan of a Fact, whether it be the book or the play, would not exist without the suicide of Levi Presley on July 13th, 2002. With that in mind, below are resources as well as ways to donate to organizations which handle suicide prevention. Telling this story which debates The Truth and poetic beauty is without a doubt crucial; however, the work of artists extends beyond the stage or screen. 


Support Services:

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 

1-800-273-8255 for free 24/7 support.

Crisis Text Line

Text HOME to 741741 for free 24/7 support.

To Donate:

Vibrant Emotional Health:

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