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“The Great Divorce” Returns to Master Arts Stage

Written by Terry DeBoer on . Posted in Local

Lewis-CS    Master Arts Theatre, the faith-based community theater group, has announced that it’s reprising last year’s successful production “The Great Divorce.”|
     The stage adaptation of the noted C.S. Lewis fantasy novel will return June 19-22, including weekend matinees. The play had an extended run last spring with numerous sold out performances.
     “We feel this particular play has so much to say and so much life in it, that it just shouldn’t rest,” said director Pris McDonald.
     The tale poses several theological questions – and reflections – in the context of an unusual collection of characters on a metaphorical bus trip from hell to heaven.

     McDonald said a frequent comment heard after last year’s production was, “Now I understand the book!” The precise reasoning and profound notions makes the book – written by the Christian apologist/academic in the 1940s – a challenge for the casual reader. But McDonald said the stage adaptation helps audiences tackle the concept and detail.
     “Lewis has such an imagination and he couches it in the characters’ personalities and their actions so beautifully. But unless you get on his ‘bus,’ it takes awhile to figure out what’s going on,” she added.

                       UNDERSTANDING THE DIVISION

     The “divorce” actually refers to the divide between heaven and hell. Spirits from heaven appear to the travelers and try to persuade them to come along to paradise.
   But many carry “baggage” in their lives that keeps them from choosing heaven.

Most of the actors from last year are returning for this year’s run. That includes the main character Clive (a reference to Clive Staples Lewis himself), portrayed by David Tiesma.
     George MacDonald, the 19th Century pastor and author who influenced Lewis’ own work, is played by Craig Apel. The MacDonald figure offers interpretations of the various confrontations between the other characters – a real help to the audience.
   Heaven is pictured as a bright and colorful world, while “Greytown” (where the travelers have ventured from) is drab, discouraging and often dangerous.
     Some of the allegorical notions suggest Lewis’ subsequent and much better known fantasy “Chronicles of Narnia.”
     “It’s an exciting challenge to take such a book and put it in a visual form – to help the audience understand in the representation of ideas,” noted the director.
     Last year’s opening night featured a post-play “talk back” session with special guest Peter Schakel, a Hope College professor who has written five books on Lewis. The Q & A with the audience provided further insight.
     “Some people told us afterward, ‘Now I’m going to read the book again,’” said McDonald.
     She said during the June run she hopes to schedule several more talk back opportunities.
     Tickets will not go on sale until May, but McDonald is happy to be getting the word out in advance.
     “When we did it last year it took a while for word of mouth to get out going,” said McDonald.
     “But if you missed it the first time, you can see it now. Or if you already saw it, come again and bring a friend.

If You Go:

“The Great Divorce” – a stage adaptation of the C.S. Lewis novel, directed by Pris McDonald; 7:30 p.m. June 19-21; with matinees at 2 p.m. June 21 and 3 p.m. June 22; at Masters Arts Theatre, 75 77th St. SW. Tickets $13. More information at 616- 455-1101, www.masterarts.org.

Author Information
Terry DeBoer
Author: Terry DeBoer
Terry is a journalist/feature writer for newspapers, magazines and websites, with a background in radio broadcasting. His usual beat is arts and entertainment, specializing in Christian/gospel music. A married father of two, he is based in Grand Rapids, Michigan Contributing Writer: West Michigan Christian News August 2011 – Present Feature writer: -Mlive.com (website and various newspapers) 1988– 2016 -Spotlight New Christian Music Magazine 1997-2008 -Church News Editor, Church Herald Magazine 2004-2009

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