“Mere Christianity,” “The Screwtape Letters,” and “The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.” All of these books have one thing in common and that is their author, C.S. Lewis. According to the official website of C.S. Lewis, “Clive Staples Lewis was one of the intellectual giants of the twentieth century and arguably one of the most influential writers of his day.” “Mere Christianity,” “The Screwtape Letters,” and “The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.” All of these books have one thing in common and that is their author, C.S. Lewis. According to the official website of C.S. Lewis, “Clive Staples Lewis was one of the intellectual giants of the twentieth century and arguably one of the most influential writers of his day.” On Sept. 6, 2018, UMHB hosted the “Highways & Byways Series: My Life’s Journey: An Evening with C.S. Lewis” with actor David Payne portraying Lewis. David Payne is a veteran British actor, and has performed this C.S. Lewis show over 500 times. Erik Vose, the director of the Performing Arts Center, has been working at UMHB for a little over a year and wanted to bring some of his work from California back with him.“We haven’t done anything like the Highways & Byways one-man performance before here at UMHB,” Vose said. “I wanted to expand out and do more theater projects here and this one is a great starter as a one-man show, kind of simple and can help us ease our way into integrating more theater into the Highways and Byways and UMHB in general.”
Payne’s website said that he doesn’t believe it is an especially religious play but that “you couldn’t do a play about Lewis and not include part of what made him tick, and that was his Christian Experience.” In his performance, Payne came onto the Performing Arts Center stage with a pot full of tea and made himself at home. There was a comfy looking chair and a side table with a teacup and saucer resting on it.
Payne sat down and immediately became Lewis. It is a plus that he looks like him, too. He talked about all the different aspects of his life starting with his early childhood in Belfast, Ireland and how his home felt warm and full, especially when his mother was there. Unfortunately, his mother passed away in 1908, and soon after he was sent off to boarding school in England. After graduating from boarding school, he was offered a full scholarship to the University of Oxford and while he was there he enlisted in the British Army. Payne/Lewis jumped ahead a few years and talked extensively about his friendship with J.R.R. Tolkien, and how he was able to read the first manuscript of “The Hobbit” and how their relationship impacted his future writing career. During this time, however, Lewis was an atheist who questioned the existence of God. This had a profound impact on his work later on, because if he hadn’t have gone through those times of questioning, we might not have some of the amazing Christian literature we have today. Lewis became a Christian in 1931, and published two of his most famous works, “Mere Christianity” and “The Screwtape Letters,” which are still in print today.
Likewise, the entire Chronicles of Narnia are also still being published, with the first three books having been adapted into award-winning movies. Lewis then talks about how later on in life he had a friend (or what we would call a pen pal today) named Joy and how she ended up moving to London with her two children. A couple years later, Lewis ended up marrying her for legal purposes but ended up falling in love. Joy died a few years after that from bone cancer, but Lewis knew where she was going (Heaven). He ended the night talking about how his friend was supposed to return back to the house and make us a cup of tea. Senior marketing major Sawyer Richardson didn’t know what to expect from the performance when he decided to attend.
“It was a very last-minute thing and I thought why not get the FAE out of the way,” Richardson said. “I have always been a Lewis fan but this event really made me appreciate his work more. It also made me understand his life a little better and where he was when he was writing.”
Shane Smith, of Temple, came because his wife is an avid C.S. Lewis fan. “Coming into tonight I didn’t have any idea what would happen but I thought that it was going to be a dialogue between two people rather than him by himself,” Smith said. “It was definitely better than what I thought and it is making me think more about his work. I will try to read more of his work because of this evening.”