Tuesday, July 27, 2021
 
 
‘Lifespan of a Fact’ Offers Comic, Provoking Look at Creative License
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Kevin Wade and Brett Moellenberg star in a tru-ish play about a man whose essay for “Harper’s” magazine was rejected due to disagreements related to fact checking. The “About a Mountain” essay was eventually accepted by the “Believer” after seven years of arguments and revisions.
   
Thursday, May 27, 2021
 

STORY BY KAREN BOSSICK

PHOTOS BY DANIEL A. LEEDS

John D’Agata and Jim Fingal could not have foreseen how relevant their book-turned-play “The Lifespan of a Fact” would become as they haggled over truths and half-truths for seven years.

But the true-ish story, which will be presented by The Spot this weekend and next, offers fresh angles from which to look at inconsistencies and misleading claims in a world gone mad over conspiracy theories, out-and-out lies and the search for the truth.

 
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Kevin Wade, Yanna Lantz and Brett Moellenberg star in a play that tries to differentiate between “truth” and “accuracy.”
 

“The play itself is not a political play, but it does have scenes that make you think about the terms of what we hear and what is manufactured and what is the actual truth,” said Brett Moellenberg, one of the stars of the play.

The Spot will present a virtual staging of “The Lifespan of a Fact” tonight through Sunday, May 30, and Thursday through Sunday, June 3-6. Patrons who purchase tickets for this weekend will have from 7 p.m. tonight to 11:59 p.m. Sunday to watch the show, which Spot cast filmed earlier this week.

Those who purchase tickets for the following weekend will have from 7 p.m. June 3 through 11:59 p.m. June 6 to watch the play. Each ticket holder may watch the show as many times as they like within their permitted timespan.

The play is the mostly true story of author John D’Agata who pens a story about the suicide of a Las Vegas teenager named Levi Presley for a magazine. He sees the teenager’s suicide as a way to delve into the culture of Las Vegas, which he believes encourages suicide, and as a way to explore how people are feeling down and out and yet no one wants to talk about mental health.

But Jim Fingal, whose first major job is to fact check the essay, takes issues with some of the inconsistencies, fabrications and misleading claims he finds in the article. D’Agata responds that the piece is an essay, not an article, which means that the truth can be embellished to capture the essence of the story.

“It’s a conversation about what is real and what is not real. So, it’s a lighthearted comedy that has something relatable for everyone,” said Moellenberg. “It’s not so much about suicide but, rather, what facts are manufactured and what’s not. Still, the subject matter is really serious so that’s why the fact checker takes it so seriously.”

Kevin Wade plays the fact-checker while Brett Moellenberg plays the writer. Yanna Lantz plays Emily, the editor who must arbitrate their battle as the magazine’s strict deadline looms.

 Natalie Battistone is the director and stage manager; Peter Burke, the set builder and videographer, along with Daniel A. Leeds. Samuel Mollner is the lighting designer.   

While it took Fingal and D’Agata seven years to debate, revise and edit the essay that serves as the basis for “Lifespan,” getting the play to the stage was an 11-month odyssey for The Spot staff.

The Spot, which has been dark since the pandemic asked the Actors’ Equity Association, of which  Battistone and Wade are members, for permission to produce the show nearly a year ago. But, given the union’s stringent health requirements, permission was denied time and again because COVID numbers were so high in Idaho.

Now, 11 months and eight proposals later, it’s happening. Actors held virtual rehearsals online, then shifted to a couple days in person.

“We were literally approved this past week and are turning the show around in 10 days—a whirlwind,” said Battistone.

The Spot received $18,000 in donations during the recent Idaho Gives and will use that money to install an HVAC system to improve the air filtration at the small theater space in Ketchum’s light industrial district. The donations will also enable The Spot to install air conditioning, which will make things more pleasant for audiences viewing shows during summer.

Moellenberg said he hopes the systems will be installed by mid-June. Once that’s done, The Spot will be cleared to return as normal. But they will have to go back to those who hold the rights to the plays they had hoped to do when the pandemic hit.

“Hopefully, we can have an in-person performance later this summer,” he said.

Moellenberg said he and others at The Spot have learned how to be patient with the process.

“We were fortunate in that we got a lot of support from the community financially so we were able to make it through,” he added. “The rules kept changing through the pandemic, which made things difficult. But everybody got vaccinated earlier this year so we’re really excited to get back up onstage again. And, with the ability to have an audience again, it feels like we’re working through the end of the pandemic.”

Tickets are $10 for Rush Tickets, $13 for student tickets and $25 for standard tickets, available at www.spotsunvalley.com.

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