CS Lewis performance sparks dialogue

While some consider the quest for truth a personal endeavor, one group has taken it upon themselves to stimulate a campus-wide conversation regarding the “real answers” to life’s most difficult questions.

“Veritas” — the Latin word for truth — is the idea behind the organization that presented “C.S. Lewis on Stage” last week. The Veritas Forum, which originally began at Harvard University, is a series of events meant to foster genuine discussion about the toughest questions in life, in order to deal with a perceived “emptiness and lack of understanding” existing in college communities.

This year alone the Veritas Forum has organized events at 11 campuses across the U.S. and abroad. The Christian-based forums are created to by local college students, professors and ministers, while drawing guidance from the headquarter Veritas team.

One of the Forum’s events, aimed at sparking meaningful discourse in the Tech community, was “C.S. Lewis on Stage.” Clive Staples “C.S.” Lewis was a literary critic, radio broadcaster and essayist during the first half of the 2oth century and is probably best remembered for his fictional works, including The Chronicles of Narnia, Out of the Silent Planet, The Screwtape Letters, The Space Trilogy and Mere Christianity.

In a religious sense, he is of particular interest because of his personal spiritual history. During his lifetime, Lewis was a member of the Church of Ireland (as a child), an atheist (at 15) and a re-converted Christian (beginning at age 33). His conversion deeply affected his work and his World War II radio broadcasts on Christianity brought him widespread acclaim.

In character as Lewis, actor Tom Key performed for a packed house last Thursday night in the Georgian Ballroom of the Biltmore. His one-man show included conversation – seemingly with the audience – and character dialogue from some of Lewis’ most memorable works like The Great Divorce and others. Key, as Lewis, spoke of his mother’s delirium and gradual death from cancer at the age of 10 and his father’s bereavement.

Lewis’ earlier personal tragedy may have had a hand in the atheism of his youth. Baptized at birth by the Church of Ireland, Lewis had fallen away from Christianity during his adolescence.

In his partially autobiographical book Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life, Lewis portrays his adolescent self as being “very angry with God for not existing.”

Later on, friends like author J.R.R. Tolkien reintroduced Lewis – whom they knew as “Jack” to Christianity. After his re-conversion, Lewis described himself as “very ordinary layman of the Church of England.”

He married late in life, to the American writer Joy Gresham, who died of bone cancer four years later. Lewis is considered by many to be the most influential Christian writer of his time and one of the intellectual giants of the 20th century.

Key’s solo performances have been in demand for the past thirty years, including appearances at The Lambs Theater off-Broadway, the John F. Kennedy Center of Washington, D.C., the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, Harvard and Yale Universities and Oxford University in England. For the past thirteen years, he has held the position of Executive Artistic Director of the Theatrical Outfit at The Balzar Theater at Herren’s in downtown Atlanta. He was a guest lecturer at Emory University for six years and holds a MA in Theater Arts from the University of Tennessee.