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‘Lifespan of a Fact’ opens at Bruka Theater


“Lifespan of a Fact” is based on a true story that dives deep into journalistic ethics and how writers take liberties with topics, and facts, that may – or may not – be a good thing.

The play is based on a book of the same name, and the play’s characters are the book’s real-life authors. They battle one another on whether individual anecdotes – people’s lived experiences – should trump or equal hard, cold facts.

Kathy Welch plays editor Emily Penrose.
Kathy Welch plays editor Emily Penrose.

Essayist John D’Agata’s character rationalizes his “literary hubris” and, ultimately, what fact-checker Jim Fingal calls factual errors. D’Agata’s perspective is one of post-modernist reasoning: If people experience something, that is real to them and therefore “factual” enough for a lay audience. 

The logic, from 2002, doesn’t track in 2023 when publications are heavily scrutinized or simply dismissed for being slanted or having a perceived bias – indeed, all news publications. Publications if anything should attempt to base their reporting – even literary essays – on facts with a strive toward accuracy. 

D’Agata maintains, however, that creative license is equally valid to tell a deeper story.

Without giving away spoilers, the story is based on a real-life suicide that occurred in Las Vegas and the subsequent essay by D’Agata about the situation. Harper’s Magazine would not print the essay, but an ultimately fact-checked version was picked up by another publication.

The play is enjoyable and humorous, and the discussion alone is worth attending. It is a remarkable story – both the tragic death and the lasting debate about how to contextualize suicide for a mass audience.

Note: Bruka issues a content warning for talk of suicide:

“The Lifespan of a Fact is suitable for adults and older teenage audiences. Characters lock horns in a debate of fact vs. fiction, and they drop some F-bombs in the process. Their explosive tête-à-têtes feature other mature themes, including discussions of suicide.”

Ryan Corrigan as fact-checking Jim Fingal
Ryan Corrigan as fact-checker Jim Fingal.



  • Bob Ives as essayist John D’Agata
  • Kathy Welch as editor Emily Penrose
  • Ryan Corrigan as fact-checking Jim Fingal


David Richards

Tickets: $30 here: https://www.simpletix.com/e/lifespan-of-a-fact-tickets-114248


Jan. 20 through Feb. 11

Bruka Theater

CORRECTION: The play runs through Feb. 11, not the 28th, as originally reported.

Bob Conrad
Bob Conradhttp://thisisreno.com
Bob Conrad is publisher, editor and co-founder of This Is Reno. He has served in communications positions for various state agencies and earned a doctorate in educational leadership from the University of Nevada, Reno in 2011. He is also a part time instructor at UNR and sits on the boards of the Nevada Press Association and Nevada Open Government Coalition.




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