The Truth Beneath

The Truth Beneath, conceived and created by Paul Schiff Berman and PCC Artistic Leader Talvin Wilks, is a time-shifting fractured narrative about memory, politics, social media, and disinformation of all kinds; and its effect on a functioning democracy. It is created in consultation with their longtime friend and colleague, Maria Ressa, founder of the Philippines journalism site Rappler and 2021 Nobel Peace Prize winner, whose personal journey is at the heart of this work.

Ressa has spent her career insisting on truth even against the power of an authoritarian rule. Her Nobel speech, her memoir How to Stand Up to a Dictator, and a Frontline documentary, A Thousand Cuts, chronicle her efforts to “hold the line” in an environment of political spin, social media amplification and abuse, and creeping authoritarianism, a story with obvious and ominous resonance for the U.S. in the age of Trump.

The U.S. currently confronts an age when the basic facts underlying politics are contested as never before. Allegations of fake news, coordinated disinformation campaigns, conspiracy theories, social media algorithms that amplify hate: all of these are now a reality of our modern political arena, and they are helping to undermine liberal democracy itself. In such a world, can we hold on to the truth beneath? Can we find such truths? Do such truths even exist?

The Truth Beneath explores these crucial contemporary questions through complex visual tableaus, a quickly shifting sound score, and multilayered video imagery that together construct a rich and disorienting theatrical world where reality is endlessly fractured, and deceit and violence are ever-present. By navigating Ressa’s personal journey, we explore and discover what is most important to the future of democracy in the U.S. and the world. The resulting collage of text and imagery is a powerful and challenging experience for the audience, a mirror to our current existence, echoes of what is yet to come.

This piece is in development, with two developmental workshops in New York City in 2024 and 2025.