'Third time's the charm': Jarrott Productions returns to live theater with new production of 'The Lifespan of a Fact'
“Third time’s the charm,” says David Jarrott about his current and third attempt to stage the play The Lifespan of a Factfor a live, in-theater audience. “We had this on our program for September of 2020. It got postponed for obvious reasons. We put it on our calendar for September of 2021, hoping that it might happen, and it didn’t happen. So now, here we go! And this is our first time back to a live, in person production… in exactly two years from the day that we cancelled the rehearsals of the production we were working on in 2020, in March.”All systems point to ‘go’ for Jarrott and his cast and crew as they prepare for the March 10 premiere of their long-planned production of The Lifespan of a Fact. Jarrott says the small, three-person cast made Covid-era rehearsals a bit easier, but that’s not why this script was originally chosen. “Well that just worked out to be a happy accident, because this was actually chosen before the word ‘Covid’ was in our vocabulary,” he says. “We had been planning on doing this since 2019. I first saw the show in New York in December of 2018, and I had the good fortune of meeting one of the playwrights, Jeremy Kareken – we have a mutual friend – and we talked about it in New York back then. And after I saw the show, I thought, definitely I want to do the show. So it’s been on our drawing board for quite a while.”Jarrott's been working to get the play in front of a live Austin audience since falling in love with the script more than three years ago. “The storyline is true,” he says. “It’s based on a true story. It’s based on an essay that the writer John D’Agata wrote back in 2003, based on a real incident: a suicide that took place in 2002 in Las Vegas. And it wasn’t published, and it went through two different magazines before it was finally published in 2010. This play telescopes a lot of that, but it is based on the true story. The two characters – the two main male characters, John D’Agata and Jim Fingal – are actual people. The publisher, Emily Penrose, is a composite and is a fictional character, but she represents the publishers that they worked with at the time.“There is a lot of conflict between the writer, John D’Agata, and the factchecker, Jim Fingal,” Jarrott continues. “In real life… this was like a seven-year back-and-forth between the two of them. John D’Agata’s original essay was 20 pages long, and Jim Fingal’s factchecking document was over 100 pages long. Jim was having some problems with John’s bending of some of the facts [and] rearranging of some of the facts. And ultimately it comes down to that kind of a faceoff, and those parts of the play are very comedic.”One of the things that drew Jarrott to the play was its timeliness. “It was a wonderfully relevant play if 2016 had never happened,” Jarrott continues. “It became even more relevant between 2016 and the time that it was actually presented for the first time on Broadway in 2018, because it deals with truth vs. accuracy, facts vs. truth, how negotiable is a fact, the complexity of the truth… and these things continue to be relevant today, even after 2020. I think these are things that we are still dealing with. It’s a funny play and it’s a moving play, and it’s a very, very relevant play.”