AU professor's one-man play about C.S. Lewis

Tue, 2009-09-08 10:14 -- univcomm
September 8, 2009

For those who know author C.S. Lewis simply as the guy who wrote "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe," or the guy Anthony Hopkins played in "Shadowlands," Kevin Radaker can fill in the blanks.

The Anderson University Professor of English and Department Chair will appear Thursday in his own one-man play, "A Visit From C.S. Lewis," in Reardon Auditorium lobby.

radaker-lewisRadaker is no novice to the one-man show; he has been performing his own show about poet Henry David Thoreau for 20 years. [Photo on left: Dr. Kevin Radaker as C.S. Lewis.]

The C.S. Lewis piece, designed as a presentation by Lewis himself, is brand new, having been performed only twice, the first time on Aug. 26 at the Castleton United Methodist Church in Indianapolis.

"It was terrific," said Mac Hamon, the church’s pastor. "He held of probably 200 people literally in rapt attention for 70 minutes. Remarkable."

Hamon, a longtime reader of Lewis’ works, added that Radaker’s appearance was uncanny.

"He looks physically and sounds vocally enough like C.S. Lewis for it to be a sort of double experience," he said. "You find yourself thinking, 'Hold on, this really isn’t C.S. Lewis.'"

Radaker developed the idea in 2007, basing it on several of Lewis’ works, including "Surprised by Joy," "God in the Dock," "The Screwtape Letters," "Mere Christianity," "A Grief Observed" and "The Problem of Pain."

"I decided to re-read several of his writings with the idea of performance in mind," said Radaker, 53.

"Visit" contains no references to Lewis’ fiction, including his "Narnia" books. Why nonfiction only?

"One, he was one of the best-known and most popular speakers in the '40s and '50s in England, with adult audiences," Radaker said. "He spoke of matters of faith to audiences that were almost exclusively adults."

Radaker also consulted Lewis’ radio broadcasts, 26 talks he collected into his masterwork of Christian apologetics, "Mere Christianity." Lewis himself was an atheist until late in life, when he embraced belief in God. That belief would later be tested when his wife, American writer Joy Gresham, died of cancer.

"It’s a defense of Christianity, an explanation of Christianity, but in a less formal, less philosophical or professorial manner," Radaker said. "Because he knew he was appealing, or attempting to appeal, to a wide audience."

And that, as much as anything else, explains Lewis’ enduring appeal, to a wide generation of readers: his ability to relate to the emotional and philosophical sides of Christianity.

"He does understand, and captures very well, the emotive side of the Christian journey," Radaker said. "He’s very honest about how, if one does come to a point of believing in God and having faith in God, it does not mean that one will never struggle."

And the Lewis he portrays is much more jovial and outgoing than the shy, stoical character played by Anthony Hopkins in 1993’s "Shadowlands."

"I think Dr. Radaker is particularly interested in portraying C.S. Lewis the human being, the man, for persons to understand and appreciate Lewis in this way," said Brian Barlow, AU professor of religious studies.

"Whereas before, maybe they’d only read 'The Chronicles of Narnia’ or some of Lewis' apologetic works, and not really thought about Lewis himself."

"I must say that the last three years have been eye-opening for me," Radaker said of his play. "I hadn’t read Lewis in about two decades, and to reread him in my early 50s now was eye-opening, enlightening, energizing and inspiring."

—Rodney Richey is a feature writer for The Herald Bulletin. Story republished with permission. -----------

'A Visit From C.S. Lewis'

What: A 70-minute, one-man play about the revered children’s author and Christian apologist, following by 15-minute Q&A

Cast: Kevin Radaker, Anderson University Professor of English and Department Chair and the play’s author

Where: Reardon Auditorium lobby, AU campus

When: 6 p.m. Thursday

Admission: By invitation only, a Town and Gown Event

Note: Program is intended for audience members ages 16 and older only; text contains no references to "Chronicles of Narnia"

Information: (765) 641-4029, AU Office of Development. -------------

Future performances

Sept. 13: East Side Church of God, 2600 E. Fifth St., Anderson, 6 p.m.

Sept. 22: All-campus chapel-convocation for Anderson University (shortened version), 10 a.m.

Oct. 11: St. John’s Lutheran Church, 310 E. 53rd St., Anderson, 11 a.m.

Oct. 25: Dayspring Church of God, 1060 Smiley Ave., Cincinnati, Ohio, 6 p.m.

Nov. 12: Our Lady of Grace Catholic Church, 9900 E. 191st St., Noblesville. 7:30 p.m.

Nov. 15: Park Place Church of God, 501 College Drive, Anderson, 6 p.m.

Nov. 17: Rotary Club of Anderson (by invitation only), 12:45 p.m.

Dec. 3, 7 p.m., Thiel College, Greenville, Pa.

April 23, 2010: Christ the Savior Lutheran Church, 10500 E. 126th St., Fishers (by invitation only), 7 p.m. -------------

Anderson University is a private Christian university of 2,800 undergraduate and graduate students in central Indiana. Anderson continues to be recognized as a top Christian college: in 2008, U.S. News and World Report ranked Anderson University among the best colleges and universities in the Midwest for the fourth consecutive year. Established in 1917 by the Church of God, Anderson University offers more than 65 undergraduate majors and graduate programs in business, education, music, nursing and theology.