BWW Interview: Director Wes Grantom on Pioneer Theatre Company's THE LIFESPAN OF A FACT
Pioneer Theatre Company will present the thought-provoking drama THE LIFESPAN OF A FACT through November 16, 2019, directly following its run on Broadway starring Cherry Jones, Daniel Radcliffe, and Bobby Cannavale earlier this year.
A demanding editor has given an eager young fact checker a big assignment: apply his skill to a groundbreaking piece by an unorthodox author on a sensitive subject. The resulting conflict between fact-checker and author casts a comic light on the intersection between truth and art. In an era of #FakeNews and #AlternativeFacts, it might seem ripped from today's news, but the story, fresh from its successful run on Broadway, was inspired by real life events that predate even Twitter!
Director Wes Grantom, who most recently directed BEEP BOOP at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and has received multiple Drama League Fellowships, spoke with BroadwayWorld about his passion for the play, this production, and Pioneer Theatre Company.
1. How would you best describe THE LIFESPAN OF A FACT for those who aren't familiar with it?
THE LIFESPAN OF A FACT is a really smart comedy that moves at a breakneck pace to keep audiences guessing. The play explores society's relationship to facts in the Information Age and our ability (or lack thereof) to ever really know the truth. As a three-hander, it is also a fantastic opportunity to watch three incredible actors devour each other over the course of the brisk 90-minute evening.
2. The topic of the nonfiction book the show is based on, also titled THE LIFESPAN OF A FACT, isn't the most obvious choice for a play. How does it work as a piece of theatre?
Three playwrights adapted the book by two authors who freely admit they took dramatic liberties, so the source material is fertile ground for making a piece of theatre. The play does exactly what it sets out to do--it makes us laugh and it makes us think. Whoever had the original idea to adapt this book for the stage deserves a lot of credit. It's not an obvious choice and that it really works makes it all the more satisfying for audiences.
3. THE LIFESPAN OF A FACT was on Broadway just this year, which makes this one of the first productions of the show. What is it like directing such a new high-profile play?
Everyone is producing this play across the country because it speaks to our current moment in a way that is rare for a new comedy. It's actually funny, and it definitely has something to say. Because it is about journalism, it becomes more relevant with every new story that hits the news cycle. The cast and I enter the rehearsal room every day fueled by what we've seen in our news feeds. It's a thrill to work on material that crackles with immediacy the way LIFESPAN does.
4. Did you see the show on Broadway? How similar or dissimilar is this production?
I did not see the play in New York. I feel lucky to approach the material with fresh eyes, although everyone I've spoken to about the Broadway production really loved it.
Right now in our country, there are three incredible actors in Cincinnati performing this play. There are also three brilliant actors in St. Louis performing this play. And then there is our stellar company that I have had the great pleasure of working with here in Salt Lake City. The Broadway production sparked a movement with this play that is rippling across America. I encourage people to seek out this play wherever it is being performed. Here is Salt Lake City, Ben Cherry, Constance Macy, and John Kroft are a wonder to behold. I hope everyone in this community has the pleasure of witnessing their brilliance.
6. What is so compelling about this play and this Pioneer Theatre Company production that audiences will most connect to?
The team of designers and the production staff who bring this play to life are just incredible. They have created a beautiful production that really supports the many twists and turns of the play. I can't wait to experience it with an audience because I suspect they will be on the edge of their seats. Also, the majority of our company of actors and designers have worked here in Salt Lake City many times. Even those of us who live in New York, LA, and elsewhere keep returning to the Pioneer because we feel a deep connection to this community. It's a very special place where special work gets made. I hope that shines through in our work.
7. Is there anything else you'd like to say?
Come see Pioneer Theatre Company's production of THE LIFESPAN OF A FACT!
THE LIFESPAN OF A FACT plays through November 16, 2019. For tickets, call the box office at 801-581-6961 or visit www.pioneertheatre.org.
Photo Credit: Cast of THE LIFESPAN OF A FACT