Classic Christian Literature On Stage

Nov. 13, 2012 - by jsklekamp

Classic Christian Literature On Stage

Feb. 1, 2013
Screwtape

A student review by senior English major Kelsey Luffman

C.S. Lewis (1898 – 1963), arguably the most influential writer, scholar, and Christian apologist of the modern age, is perhaps best known in the United States for his Chronicles of Narnia (published between 1950 and 1956). However, Lewis’s fiction writing extends far beyond the realm of children’s literature. MNU students and faculty experienced the effects of Lewis’s literary legacy on September 29, in the Fellowship for the Performing Arts’ theatrical adaptation of The Screwtape Letters. 

The play, which took place at the architecturally gorgeous Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts in Kansas City, Mo., is an adaptation of Lewis’s 1942 novel by the same name. The book’s premise is simple, yet never ceases to fascinate: it is a fictional collection of letters from Screwtape, a senior devil, to his nephew Wormwood, a recent graduate of the Tempter’s Training College in Hell.

In his letters, Screwtape advises Wormwood how to best tempt and foster sin in a certain young man, referred to as “the Patient.” Throughout their elaborate deceptions and twisted antics, Screwtape and Wormwood’s ultimate goal is to damn the man’s soul to Hell so they can devour it – but there’s one thing holding them back. Screwtape and his nephew must fight against the influence “the Enemy” (i.e. God) before He can redeem the Patient for Heaven.  

FPA’s production featured a lush, stylish set that allowed audience members to enter the hellish office where Screwtape dictates his infernal mail. I was pleased that the producers chose to preserve the book’s format; rather than creating roles for characters like the Patient, his mother, and the Patient’s love interest, who were discussed, but not present in the book, they chose to maintain the epistolary format.

Though the production was remarkably faithful to the source material, there were a few exceptions. One of the producers’ ingenious innovations was to appoint Toadpipe (who is but briefly referenced in the book) as a second protagonist. Toadpipe, as Screwtape’s demon underling, is repeatedly induced into trances where he puppets Screwtape’s words, enacting the various virtues, vices, and scenarios the senior devil suggests. Beckley Andrews was simultaneously disturbing and poignant as the twisted, reptilian, and elastic-bodied Toadpipe, evoking the groveling inhumanity that results from servitude to evil.

screwtape-group-edit

Several students attended the performance of Screwtape at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts

Besides the characterization of Toadpipe, the producers took other minor liberties to make the World War II work more accessible to contemporary audiences. The most obvious instance of this was replacing references to “the German war” with more relevant “terrorism” – an alteration which made Screwtape’s nonchalant explanations of how to inflict maximum damage on the human soul during wartime much more chilling.

The production’s greatest strength, however, was Max McLean’s virtuoso performance as Screwtape. McLean (who is also the president and artistic director of FPA), played a deliciously repulsive, shockingly avaricious Screwtape whose cartoonish self-importance suggested the manner of a pompous Oxford don. Most significantly, however, McLean succeeded in lending an air of exaggerated gravity to Screwtape’s ironic temptation strategies, eliciting knowing laughs from audience members, who came close to filling the theatre’s 1,800 seats.

Overall, the adaptation struck an admirable balance between textual faithfulness and artistic liberty, and succeeded in bringing Lewis’s words to life for a contemporary audience. Though I do not believe Lewis’s superb work can be improved upon textually, it’s inevitable that audiences experience cultural amnesia, and the production’s minor alterations served to bridge the gap between Lewis’s world and ours.

I attended the performance with a group of MNU faculty members and fellow students, and the experience was a memorable one.  For us, the impact of the performance extended beyond the theatre. Our response was what I believe Lewis intended when he penned his devilish letters – intelligent consideration and discussion of the Christian faith, as well as increased awareness of that faith’s implications for our eternal perspective, as well as our daily lives in a modern (now, postmodern) context.

To learn more about theological discussion, fine arts, and Christian community at MNU, visit mnu.edu.

To learn more about the Fellowship for the Performing Arts, their critical reception, and their upcoming performances, visit screwtapeonstage.com. 

 
 

MNU News

Sunday, August 2
Recent News
List
Grid
Archives
FOE Team 2015
Foundations of Excellence Project Launches

Foundations of Excellence Project Launches

Faculty and staff chosen to be on the Foundations of Excellence task force studying MNU's first year student experience are in Asheville, North…

Read More
Bringing a passion for the past into the present

Bringing a passion for the past into the present

  History means something special to MNU graduate Sarah Wacker (’15). Her inspiration for American history stems from memories of her…

Read More
Lauren Glenn Mark
More Games Needed in the Classroom

More Games Needed in the Classroom

To engage today's learnings, more games should be utilized in the classroom. Games and learning are not at odds according to conference keynoter Glenn Wiebe a curriculum & technology integration…

Read More
NYC Scholarship Winner 2015
Scholarship Winner Always Wanted to Attend MNU

Scholarship Winner Always Wanted to Attend MNU

Dania Unruh had given up on her dream of attending MNU. Based on finances the senior from Garden City, Kansas figured she would attend community…

Read More
Pete Robinson
Army Chaplain named Alum of the Year

Army Chaplain named Alum of the Year

Army Capt. Pete Robinson (’04) wanted nothing to do with the military or hospitals when he graduated from MNU with a BA in youth and family ministry. Growing up in a household in which his father,…

Read More
MWROC-LN-072012-0668
Video: Mark Wood Orchestra Camp

Video: Mark Wood Orchestra Camp

It's the sixth year they've come to Olathe and MNU to learn from some of the world's best electric orchestra artists. And they love MNU's Bell Center and the experience they get from the Mark Wood…

Read More
Ranked #1
MNU Number 1 in Kansas in Money's Best Colleges 2015-2016

MNU Number 1 in Kansas in Money's Best Colleges 2015-2016

MidAmerica Nazarene University was named number 1 in Kansas among public and private colleges and universities in Money magazine’s “Money’s…

Read More
BlakeWalker
FCA Huddle Underway at MNU

FCA Huddle Underway at MNU

Assistant Football Coach Blake Walker, says the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) was the bridge for him from a 19-year-old student athlete searching for his place in the world, to a sold-out…

Read More
KCRM
SERVEteams Assist KC Rescue Mission

SERVEteams Assist KC Rescue Mission

MNU SERVEteams Squad'66 and Voices of Praise had the privilege of joining the ministry of the Kansas City Rescue Mission recently for an evening. Voices of Praise lead more than 80 men in worship.…

Read More
Sports
MNU Inducts 5 Into Athletics Hall of Fame

MNU Inducts 5 Into Athletics Hall of Fame

Mike Birge (football), Danny Hawkins (basketball), Penny Morin (softball), Matt Schneider (football), and Justen Wack (soccer) will be inducted on Homecoming weekend in October...(click title for more)

 
MNU Women's Soccer Camps

MNU Women's Soccer Camps

(click title for details)

 
Wade Watkins Joins MNU XC/T&F Program

Wade Watkins Joins MNU XC/T&F Program

MNU Athletics is pleased to announce the addition of Wade Watkins to the MNU Track and Field/Cross Country program as Associate Head Coach...(click title for more)

 
Latest Photos
The early construction of our booth
The early construction of our booth
The early construction of our booth
Our booth was complete with a looping video & prezi about MNU.
The complete booth! Our steel structure was created by local artist and alum David Platter and topped with images of Kansas City and the MNU campus.
With plenty of space to simply hang out, we designed our booth to be an open and welcoming place.