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

Tuesday, March 3
Recent News
List
Grid
Archives
Taylor Cowan
MNU Athlete Chosen for New NAIA Council

MNU Athlete Chosen for New NAIA Council

New group would provide a voice for NAIA student-athletes OLATHE, KANSAS—MNU student Taylor Cowan has been named to the NAIA’s proposed Association of Student-Athletes (ASA), a new group to be…

Read More
Steve and Ryan
Pioneers’ Biggest Fans

Pioneers’ Biggest Fans

They’re the Pioneers’ biggest fans. Attending as many home and away games as they can, Ryan Robinson and his dad, Steve, have made MNU athletic events their priority for the last four years. The…

Read More
KAHPERD022915
MNU Hosts PE Teachers

MNU Hosts PE Teachers

MNU hosted 140 K-12 and college physical education teachers from across the state of Kansas for the Kansas Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation, Dance (KAHPERD ) winter workshop…

Read More
Robyn Essex
Alum Puts Experience and Civic Duty to the Test

Alum Puts Experience and Civic Duty to the Test

She’s the mom of three boys, an educator experienced with pre-school age children to corporate training, a volunteer youth leader, and now she’s…

Read More
M15Booth
M15 Conference Sets Vision

M15 Conference Sets Vision

This week's M15 (Mission 2015) Conference at the Kansas City Convention Center brought together nearly 3500 Nazarenes from across North America together. MNU faculty, staff and students served in…

Read More
Mabee
MNU Among Universities Recognized Feb. 9-16

MNU Among Universities Recognized Feb. 9-16

Kansas Governor Sam Brownback has proclaimed Feb. 9-16 as Kansas Private College Week in the state of Kansas. The Governor's proclamation brings…

Read More
Grace Wallace 022015
MNU Senior Wins Prestigious Vocal Awards

MNU Senior Wins Prestigious Vocal Awards

MNU senior music major Grace Wallace won first place in Upper Women's College Division and College Musical Theatre Division competitions at the Kansas City Chapter of the National Association of…

Read More
Browards
Making Connections is Alum’s Passion

Making Connections is Alum’s Passion

Josh Broward is a well-rounded guy. Graduating in 2000 with a double major in religion and business administration he spent the next 15 years serving abroad as a pastor, a professor, a writer and a…

Read More
Adrien1 outcomes-61-3566513780-O
Success Is Balance of Work, Personal and Spiritual Life

Success Is Balance of Work, Personal and Spiritual Life

Adrien Piercy is an attorney with Bever Dye, LC, in Wichita, Kansas. But before that she was a marketing major at MNU. In 2007, she was even named…

Read More
Sports
Cheer Headed to Nationals

Cheer Headed to Nationals

The MNU Cheerleaders received an at large bid for the 2015 NAIA National Invitational which takes place March 12-14 at Midland University...(click title for more)

 
Pioneers Handle Yellowjackets

Pioneers Handle Yellowjackets

Gabriel Jordan topped 20 points for the first time in his MNU career as the Pioneers beat Graceland 101-86 on Saturday...(click title for more)

 
Sprew's Career-High Highlights Senior Day

Sprew's Career-High Highlights Senior Day

Daria Sprew capped her stellar career with a 30-point 12-rebound performance in a 32-point victory over Graceland on Saturday...(click title for more)

 
Latest Photos
MLK_2015-31
MLK_2015-33 Bob Shands (left) accepts Martin Luther King Living Legacy award on behalf of his late father, Rev. O. Norman Shands, Jr. Dr. David Spittal, MNU president (right).
MLK_2015-27
MLK_2015-23
MLK_2015-18
MLK_2015-8