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Artist Series to bring C.S. Lewis novel to life: McLean to act and direct Screwtape Letters performance

Artist Series performances will feature Max McLean’s adaptation of the Screwtape Letters. Photo: Submitted

Audiences will receive a glimpse into the mind of fictional demons in upcoming performances of Lewis’s book The Screwtape Letters Tuesday through Thursday at 8 p.m. in Rodeheaver Auditorium.

The play presents a head demon trainer in hell, Screwtape, who plots through letters to his nephew and field agent, Wormwood, to prevent people from being influenced by his enemy—in this case, God. According to Dr. Ted Miller of the Bible faculty, the 31 letters that comprise the book are short and witty, but they’re witty in a dark way.

Most of the play takes place in Screwtape’s “office” in hell where he dictates letters to the demonic forces who are working to counter the effects of Christianity on earth.

Lewis isn’t the first writer to come up with this idea (John Bunyan demonstrated similar themes in his 1682 novel The Holy War), but he’s the first author to capture his audiences by portraying Satan’s deceptive charm. Readers receive one side of the letters, so they must use their imaginations to fill in the gaps.

“It’s a gateway book,” Miller explained. “Lewis is drawing on ideas that are much older than he is and recasting them in a way that’s very interesting and easy to grasp.”

Miller describes Satan’s deception as a major theme of the work, because Satan takes the most ordinary parts of life and twists them. Ultimate deception happens when someone doesn’t realize he’s being deceived, so demons have to work in ways that are imperceptible.

Dr. Darren Lawson, dean of the School of Fine Arts and Communication, saw Max McLean’s interpretation of The Screwtape Letters in Dallas and New York City and recommended to the administration that the performance be brought to campus.

McLean, artistic director of Fellowship for the Perfoming Arts, is both the primary actor and director of the drama. According to the official Screwtapes on Stage website, McLean’s narrations of other works have received four nominations for Audie Awards, which recognize distinctions in audio books and spoken word entertainment. He has authored two books and is currently working on a stage adaptation of Lewis’ The Great Divorce.

“I want the audience to think about how demonic forces can influence the culture around us, which ultimately shapes us,” Lawson said.