The kids had just survived a busy week that included Student Week of Prayer and Senior Talent Show, on top of normal academics. So it was no small thing that I robbed them of 9 hours by requiring them to attend our "field trip" to San Francisco. (Since a minor sporting event was occurring in SF that day, we left an extra hour early!)
Their teacher did not make the wisest ticket choices. (Yes, that's a distinct euphemism!) To say that we were plastered against the back wall of the theater, approximately 1/4 mile from the stage, involves only slight hyperbole. Having previously seen the performance from the 10th row, I was horrified when we sat down, certain that I'd ruined my students' chances of appreciating the show.
I was wrong.
Here, in their own words, are their responses to the play:
From Straightforward Reflection Papers
“[Toadpipe’s] animal behavior and her voice matched my imagination of what a Hell servant should be like, and the detail of patients being tempted was demonstrated through her very powerfully.”
“I never before realized how predictable humans are with their little habits and thoughts and how we are like play-dough in the hands of the devil… It makes you really begin to question yourself.”
“It makes me sad that Satan can take something as beautiful as love and use it to his advantage.”
“This play was not only unique, it was an intellectual challenge that forced the audience to question their very existence.”
“[Toadpipe] was a more than helpful asset to telling the story. Her actions, the body language; everything about her was not only wildly entertaining, but profound in regards to the story itself.”
“The production itself, from a visual standpoint, was stunning… I can honestly say it was amazing to watch.”
“I didn’t know it was humanly possible to make the sounds [Toadpipe’s actress] made…The way she moved and acted the demon made me ponder how real demons act in Hell.”
“Its demonic point of view is not only insightful, but spine-chillingly realistic… Compared to reading the book, the play was easier to understand at a faster pace.”
“Many of the points hit home for me, but… the mood allowed me to laugh at the situation as well.”
“The stage act has filled in the missing part for my lack of imagination… the whole thing is a kind of circle, reasoning over and over about Satan’s strategy to defeat God by gathering more souls each day. The worst part of the play is that it can’t be repeated.”
“Max McLean recited… with a smooth narrative voice, and I can just feel that the devil really talks in this particular way.”
“Screwtape really came to life through this actor… I thought of him as a more loving and affectionate uncle. He became more intimidating, and the production made the script more dramatic and brought out Screwtape’s persona.”
“What really hit home for me was the weight issue, when Screwtape was telling Wormwood that the media influences what is hot or not. This really struck me because that’s how it is today, and it is something that a lot of people deal with (including myself.)”
“This production helped me realize what happens in our lives everyday. It makes you think about everything around you.”
“The voice of Sctrewtape I always imagined was exactly how Max Mclean portrayed it.”
“Screwtape was portrayed brilliantly. I think they made he perfectly evil, but amazingly relatable.”
“I loved that [Max Mclean] said that he could personally relate to almost everything in the book. Because of what we’ve read, I’ve found myself being able to relate to almost all of it, and I felt like I was a horrible person. Like I was being tempted by all the things the demons are trying to tempt me with.”
“The way he said everything made it extremely difficult not to listen to him. He had the most soothing yet irritating voice. It was a voice that you wanted to stop because of what it was saying, but you wanted it to keep going forever because of how it sounded.”
“Knowing that there is a constant battle for my soul keeps me on guard… It makes me a little angry that the demons think they can toy with me without me doing anything back. I hope they don’t mind that I am with their Enemy, and he is strong in me.”
“I realized we all think the complications in life happen without reason, but really many happen just to keep our eyes off the truth.”
“When I am in church, I always get an instant shot of drowsiness, no matter how energized I was right before I walked in. I never knew why, but it always happened. I came to realize that it could be a tactic the devil is using, because he knows how defenseless I am when tired and uses this to prevent me from hearing the word of God.”
“When he explained that [the stage] was the remains of what the demons have collected as a sort of trophy case, it made me realize what my soul is worth to them. It’s nothing more than food, and my remains are something they can put in their trophy case as a sign of how great they think they are. But to God, I am a precious child. He gave up his Son for me and still gave the freedom to choose whether or not I want to be with Him. This is where I see the loving and compassionate Father.”
From Reflection Papers that Imitated
The Screwtape Letters Satirical Style
“You will never realize the penalty the underworld has to pay for this. Don’t let another group of students go to this production. The last thing we need is a group of visual learners to get a grip on Lewis’s crazy ideas.”
“The human on the stage showed my feelings when I was writing, the evilness, I love it! If he was not a human but, instead a loyal creature like me, I am sure he would be my best student. And I should have a mailbox in my house, such a brilliant ideas from those foolish humans… and having Toadpipe write my letters increases my royalty, another brilliant idea from foolish humans.”
“When the music and the letters combine, it sounds magnificently disgraceful, which is my favorite. The human on the stage has a dreadful voice just like mine, how delightful!”
“When he read my writings about the power of prayer and about the different churches, they realized that maybe this was going on in their own lives. I am enraged just to think that for a second it hit home to them how easy it is for us to control them!”
“I saw a group of AP students, and by the end they were saying the lines before that imposter could! They knew my letters! The youth of today might be ruined, their souls forever lost to the Enemy!”
“A student was almost led to conversion of the most detrimental sort at the explanation of our use of noise and courtship! Luckily her demon, Hobnob, took advantage of her own ‘love’ interest, seated close at hand, to distract her, but she is still very much at risk.”
“Good Satan! How troublesome are those who think as they watch. No doubt all those who allowed thought felt my letters hit home, seeing as temptation is a torture from which no man is exempt.”
“The man learned my words well, and timed the execution of each perfectly to make such a simple collection of letters into a spectacle. The delightful images of bones set a dank, dark tone to an otherwise humorous retelling of my advice. I was disgusted by their laughter. You, Wormwood, have caused all this! To be mocked and held up as a puppet to the humans! Our only hope is that they forget the play altogether.”
Get Thou to the Theatre!
So, I'm mixing my allusions...just finished Hamlet in class.
But seriously, connect with Screwtape on Stage via Facebook. Check out their website for a performance city near you.
"The devil made me do it" will take on an entirely new meaning!