Actor David Payne playing C.S. Lewis

The one-man performance of “An Evening with C.S. Lewis” will be performed Thursday and Friday, Oct. 4 and 5, at 7:30 p.m. at the Snow Drama Theater at Brigham Young University-Idaho in Rexburg.

September 20, 2018
Writer: Don Sparhawk

The one-man performance of “An Evening with C.S. Lewis” will be performed Thursday and Friday, Oct. 4 and 5, at 7:30 p.m. at the Snow Drama Theater at Brigham Young University-Idaho in Rexburg.

Performed by actor David Payne, the one-man play provides insight into the life of the famous British writer. The play is set in 1963 and C.S. Lewis, who is in the twilight years of his life, has agreed to give an informal talk to some American writers who are visiting England. They have come to Lewis’ home, just outside of Oxford, England, and are eagerly anticipating hearing the man who has become a legend in his own lifetime.

Lewis is in great form and his audience is spellbound as, with a display of oratory and humor that made him one of England’s most famous public speakers. He recounts the significant events and the people who shaped his life, including his journey from atheism to Christianity.

Payne’s first encounter with C.S. Lewis was as a teenager when he was given a copy of Lewis’ best-selling book “Screwtape Letters.” Little did he realize that some 40 years later that he would be gaining a reputation for his portrayals of its famous author.

It all started with an audition notice in a theatrical production to be staged at Nashville’s Tennessee Performing Arts Center in 1996. Payne, who had never been on stage before but who did have a British accent, decided to audition, hoping for a minor part. He surprised everybody (including himself) when he won the lead role of C.S. Lewis.

During rehearsals for the production of “Shadowlands,” Payne was given a copy of “A Grief Observed,” Lewis’ diary of grief following the death of his American wife, Joy. Captivated by the brutal honesty of a man bearing his soul, Payne memorized the whole book and then adapted it into a one-man show, “Mist in the Mourning.”

Premiered in Nashville, where all three performances sold out, he then toured this production extensively throughout the United States. Following these performances, he was very often peppered with lots of questions about C.S. Lewis. He was always very happy to answer these questions and then one day, a thought struck him, “Wouldn’t it be fun if Lewis himself could answer these question?”

That’s when he wrote “An Evening with C.S. Lewis,” basing the show around the questions that people kept asking and the pivotal occurrences in Lewis’ life. Payne’s latest self-penned show is “Lewis and Tolkien: of Wardrobes & Rings,” which focuses on the very last meeting between Lewis and his great friend, J.R.R. Tolkien.

Tickets for the Center Stage event are $12 for the general public and $6 for BYU-Idaho students. Tickets are available online at www.byui.edu/tickets or on school days from the BYU-Idaho Ticket Office at 208-496-3170, located inside the University Store in the Manwaring Center.