The year is 1963. Author C.S. Lewis is hosting a group of American writers at his home near Oxford. They are about to experience a captivating evening with a man whose engaging conversation and spontaneous humor made him one of the great storytellers of his day. Seated in his living room and in front of a warm fire, he recalls the people and events that inspired his thought and shaped his life: his friendship with J.R.R. Tolkien, why he nearly abandoned the Narnia Chronicles, how he came to embrace Christianity, and the American woman who turned his life upside down.
And this Saturday, you can take part in that conversation as Caldwell Fine Arts presents “An Evening with C.S. Lewis” at 7 p.m. in Jewett Auditorium on The College of Idaho campus. British tea biscuits will be served at intermission. Tickets can be purchased online at caldwellfinearts.org or by calling 459-5275. Adult tickets are $20, $15 and $10, and students are $10, $8 and $5.
“People ask me whether it’s a religious play, and I say, no, it’s not,” said David Payne, who portrays Lewis. “But you couldn’t do a play about Lewis and not include part of what made him tick, and that was his Christian experience.”
It was a simple call of “Auditions for Shadowlands, British accents a help!” that has led Payne on a much unexpected journey. At age 55, he auditioned for the play about C.S. Lewis at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center, hoping to snag a small role with his native accent. Instead, he landed the lead role as Lewis himself, and took off on a stage career that hasn’t ended decades later.
Bearing an uncanny resemblance to Lewis on stage, he’s made it his life’s work to portray one of the biggest literary giants of the 20th Century, performing many times as Lewis in “Shadowlands” and other productions.
Payne has extensively studied the life and writings of Lewis and met Lewis’s stepson Douglas Gresham, who wound up coming to a performance of “Shadowlands” in Tennessee. Gresham told him “You couldn’t be in a room more than five minutes with C.S. Lewis without there being raucous laughter,” and the play reflects that.
“People who come to the show will find lots of humor in it,” Payne said. “Every audience is different, and so when I go out on stage, it’s like a new partner is out there. That partner is that audience that night, and we’re going to dance together and we’re going to have fun.”
Caldwell Fine Arts hosts a Concert Connection before the play at 6:15 pm, featuring the C of I’s Rev. Phil Rogers, campus minister and associate dean of students. He’ll discuss “The Personal and Religious Underpinnings of Lewis’s Writings.” This mini-lecture is free and open to the public. Dinner is also available for $10 for Adults and $6 for Children under 14. Dinner can be added on when purchasing tickets to the play. The Concert Connection is held in Simplot Dining Hall at The College of Idaho. The meal is served cafeteria style and features all-you-can eat entrées, salad bar, grill, dessert, and drink. The cafeteria opens at 5:30 pm.
The College of Idaho has a 125-year-old legacy of excellence. The C of I is known for its outstanding academic programs, winning athletics tradition and history of producing successful graduates, including seven Rhodes Scholars, three governors, four NFL players and countless business leaders and innovators. Its distinctive PEAK Curriculum challenges students to attain competency in the four knowledge peaks of humanities, natural sciences, social sciences and a professional field—empowering them to earn a major and three minors in four years. The College’s close-knit, residential campus is located in Caldwell, where its proximity both to Boise and to the world-class outdoor activities of southwest Idaho’s mountains and rivers offers unique opportunities for learning beyond the classroom. For more information, visit www.collegeofidaho.edu.