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One-man play to explore life of C.S. Lewis
0412 Lewis
David Payne portrays legendary writer C.S. Lewis in his one-man show “An Evening with C.S. Lewis: My Life’s Journey” which will be performed Sunday, April 15, at First Presbyterian Church in Gainesville. - photo by For The Times

Ever wondered what an evening with writer C.S. Lewis would be like? 

Actor David Payne will be presenting his one-man show “An Evening with C.S. Lewis: My Life’s Journey” Sunday, April 15, at the First Presbyterian Church in Gainesville. 

“An Evening with C.S. Lewis: My Life’s Journey” 

When: 4-5:30 p.m. Sunday, April 15 

Where: First Presbyterian Church, 800 S. Enota Drive NW, Gainesville

How much: $15, free for students 

The performance is based upon the life and writings of C.S. Lewis, whose works include books exploring theology and philosophy, such as “Mere Christianity,” as well children’s books such as “The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.”

Payne first started acting as Lewis when he nabbed the lead role in “Shadowlands” with Nashville’s Tennessee Performing Arts Center. He didn’t audition for the Lewis part; instead, he thought he was going to get a minor role. He also thought it’d be a one-time thing.

“I had no intention of a long-term career,” he said. “I just thought it would be a fun thing to do. I wanted to try something different, and I saw the ad and I thought that I should audition. I thought that I would get a small part, not the lead role.”

For Payne, falling in love with Lewis’s character was easy.

“He became a part of me from the get-go, from the very first rehearsal,” he said.

Payne came up with the idea of doing the one-man show because he felt people would enjoy knowing what Lewis’ day-to-day conversations and life were like. 

“For C.S Lewis, I just wanted him to be at his home answering questions or talking about his life,” Payne said. “I wanted him to cover subjects that people want to know. So, with the Lewis talking show, I wanted to explore the friendships of his life.”

Payne thought that it would be successful for a couple of years, but it has become a crowd favorite for the past 18 years.

“I didn’t think it was going to be as successful as it is now,” he said.

Payne first read a couple of Lewis’s books when he was 17. 

“But I didn’t know a lot about him as a person besides the fact that he was a well-known author,” Payne said. 

Since then, he’s gotten to know the character of Lewis well.

“He was a very good man, a very honest man, generous man, funny man. He was a very sincere man,” Payne said. “If you’re going to play somebody, it’s nice to play someone who you can say was a great human.” 

A lot of Payne’s time is consumed by touring. He also performs in other shows and has written six plays mostly about Lewis.

“We do around 40-50 (C.S. Lewis shows) a year because we do other shows as well. We tour around eight months,” Payne said. “We try not to tour in the summer months. It starts in September and ends in May of the following year.” 

Payne said writing plays takes a lot of time, patience and dedication to finish. 

“Writing a play is a long-going process. So if you want to write a play, it might take you around three to four months, but it will take a lot longer to perfect it,” he said. “So I would say to get a play in the right way, it could take up to two years after the first draft.”

Something Payne enjoys about each and every one of his performances is that the audience is never the same. 

“Every audience is different. It’s like no thing that’s always the same, no audience that is always the same. Some audiences will laugh more in some places and some will laugh less. Some sighed more in some places and some will sigh less,” Payne said. “Every audience is different, and I think that is one of the great things about doing a play.”

One thing audiences always seem to enjoy is the comedy. 

“They always love to laugh because there is a lot of humor in the plays I write,” Payne said. 

One thing that brings great joy to Payne is when he knows the audience truly enjoyed the performance.

“One of the greatest feelings is knowing that the audience appreciates what you have done,” Payne said. “One of the biggest compliments I ever receive is when they say that it’s almost as if I were in the same room as C.S. Lewis.”

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