C.S. Lewis is coming to town to talk about his life, loves and literature - if only in spirit.
British actor David Payne is bringing his interpretation of the famed author for a one-man show dubbed "An Evening With C.S. Lewis," which he'll perform at 7 p.m. Sunday at New Life Bible Fellowship, 4900 W. Cortaro Farms Road.
Lewis, the Irish author who lived from 1898 to 1963, is best known for his Christian allegory children's series "The Chronicles of Narnia." Payne has performed the show for 10 years.
Payne said his favorite aspect of Lewis' character is his humor.
"He was a very humorous man," Payne said. "It was a slightly boyish humor. One thing that was always a mark of his get-togethers with people like (J.R.R.) Tolkien and their group, the Inklings, which was a big part of their lives in Oxford, was that they had an enormous sense of fun. And I don't think it always comes across in books."
Steve Wright of Family Life Radio Tucson, which is sponsoring the event along with Wayland Baptist University, said he was "pretty confident" the show in the 750-seat auditorium would sell out.
Wright became determined to bring the show to Tucson after seeing a video online.
"I was captivated within about 30 seconds," he said. "David Payne is such an engaging performer in how he portrays C.S. Lewis. He had you right in the palm of his hand almost immediately."
Payne happened upon acting on a whim. In 1996, while living in Nashville, Tenn., he tried out for a small part in "Shadowlands," a play about Lewis' life, and wound up with the lead role.
During rehearsals for the play, he read and memorized Lewis' memoir on the loss of his wife, "A Grief Observed," which he adapted to the one-man show "Mist in the Mourning." From there he developed "An Evening With C.S. Lewis," to address questions audience members asked him about Lewis' life.
Payne said the material tends to get an emotional reaction.
"I love it when a grown man comes up to me and says 'You made me cry tonight,' " Payne said with a chuckle. "I expect ladies to shed a tear or two. It's such a lovely story that it touches a lot of hearts. People will find all sorts of different levels to enjoy it."
The show isn't only for Christians, Payne said, adding that he covers many important aspects of Lewis' life.
"Yes, this play has got a lot of him in it," Payne said. "It does have a lot of humor in it. It has got aspects of his Christianity, although I don't overdo it. My objective is to show facets of Lewis, not just concentrate on one facet."
Wright said the audience is in for a treat.
"It's a captivating one-man show," he said. "He sits in a wingback chair onstage with a cup of tea. It's as if you are in the living room with C.S. Lewis as one of his friends and he's just in a conversation, telling you about his life, his love, his passion, his faith. It's a great performance."
Payne said he's "always overwhelmed" with the audience's reaction.
"Each show is a great experience because it's like dancing with a new partner," Payne said. "Each audience is different."
IF YOU GO
• What: An Evening With C.S. Lewis
• When: 7 p.m. Sunday
• Where: New Life Bible Fellowship, 4900 W. Cortaro Farms Road
• General admission: $15
• Purchase tickets at: Gospel Supplies, 5611 E. Speedway - the event is expected to sell out
Contact reporter Phil Villarreal at 573-4130 or firstname.lastname@example.org