APU’s School of Visual and Performing Arts just wrapped up performances of “The Great Divorce,” Robert Smyth’s stage adaptation of C.S Lewis’ powerful novel. The show ran Feb. 2 through Feb. 11 in the Black Box Theater located in the Mary Hill Center on Azusa Pacific’s west campus.
“The Great Divorce” takes the viewer into the theological fantasy that C. S. Lewis envisioned. The Azusa Pacific cast explains Lewis’ vision by taking the audience through “heaven” or “purgatory” and walking through each character’s past on Earth. The play is full of apprehensive ghosts, comedic breaks and self-questioning theories that mesmerize the audience.
“’The Great Divorce’ is not so much a debate about the afterlife, but about the eternal implications of the life we’re living now,” Monica Ganas, Ph.D, professor and director of the production, said in a recent press release. “It is intended to leave the audience thinking about their own moment-to-moment encounters and choices, which may seem so unimportant at the time, but in fact hold so much weight.”
Christopher Keene, MFA, associate professor in the Department of Theater Arts, designed the other-worldly set. His design work has been featured in multiple issues of Southern Theater and American Theatre magazines. He joined the faculty at APU in 2012.
“The set became a playground one night and didn’t stop after that,” Zachary Poole, a junior BFA acting for the stage and screen major said. “We get to have the same conversation every night with more and more new faces and make it feel like it’s the first time every time. We get to laugh with the audience about what we think we know about heaven.”
A large cast of APU students starred in the production, which was originally made for a C.S Lewis conference that took place in Oxford and Cambridge, England. APU was able to gain permission to perform the piece after Smyth secured the rights to include the adaptation in his theater’s season.
“‘The Great Divorce’ truly reminds us that we are in no place to judge our fellow human beings because we are all the same in the eyes of God and are all capable of saying yes to Him,” senior BFA acting for the stage and screen major Aaron Wesselman said.
For Poole, this show is not only the most difficult material he has performed but is also likely the most important production in his time at APU.
“It’s arguably harder than Shakespeare, who gives you such tangible images through his text you can taste as you speak it,” Poole said. “C.S. Lewis’ subject matter, however, is undoubtedly different. I don’t know what heaven looks like. That’s intimidating. That’s heavy, especially for someone who struggles with faith.”
The current season still has two upcoming productions—the New Works Festival, a series of one-act plays written, directed and performed by students, and “Godspell,” a family-friendly musical that examines the Gospel of Matthew in a modern-day song and dance style. The New Works Festival runs March 1–5 while “Godspell” closes the season during March 30–April 9.
To buy tickets for upcoming performances, visit www.apu.edu/cma/vpa/theater/tickets/.
(From Ayzia: We should add a QR code for the website. I would be able to make one and drop it off to someone.)