A new play about friendship between JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis (07.08.14 by Pieter Collier) - Comments

With Tolkien fans buzzing about a new film coming out about the friendship between JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis, it might be easy to miss another project coming up telling their story. Vancouver-based playwright, actor, and director Ron Reed is writing a play about the dramatic relationship between the two Inklings.

So why a stage version, when a film adaptation is in the works?
“I do love film,” says Reed, “but the stage is my first love, and I think there are things that happen in live theatre that the movies just can't do. The living, breathing actors are right there in the same room as the audience, and if the performances are radically truthful, the overwhleming sense of reality, of witnessing actual human encounters, is so powerful.”
play about the friendship between JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis

This play hasn't just been a flash-in-the-pan, however. Reed would be the first to admit he's had something nearing an obsession with the lives and stories of Tolkien and Lewis for most of his life, and the idea to write a play about them has been brewing since 2011.

The original impetus, in fact, came from a conversation with his wife. He had recently read a New Yorker article about Tolkien, and as they discussed it he wound up telling her much of the story of the friendship between Tolkien and Lewis: how they met at Oxford, Tolkien bringing Lewis to the Christian faith he wrote so much about, and then the dissolution of their friendship when Lewis married divorcee Joy Davidson and the different responses to each others' writing.

“By the time one thing led to another to another my wife said, 'That would make a great play!' And she was right.” Reed explains, and then laughs, “I hope.”

Since then Reed has jumped into deeper research on their lives and friendship, so deep, in fact, that he's created a spreadsheet chronicling every single date in their lives, from before they met until after Lewis' death. Any known activity, from Oxford faculty meetings to draft revisions on their stories, is recorded in this spreadsheet. (And, as luck would have it, one of the perks includes access to this research!)

This isn't Reed's first historical drama, either. On top of a number of plays (that have been produced over 50 times across North America, including an Off-Broadway presentation), there is one that lends to this kind of writing: Bright Particular Star. It tells the story of George MacDonald's daughter, Lilia, an actress. MacDonald was, of course, a significant influence for CS Lewis and his work. He also adapted Lewis' The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe for a two-actor staged edition that has become a local favourite for Pacific Theatre, his company in Vancouver.

Of course, nothing comes free. Sure, Tolkien wrote the Lord of the Rings in his spare time, but that took him decades. Reed would like to see his script staged in 2015 which requires more dedicated time. Add to that workshops with professionals and other development work, and it was clear that Reed would need to set up an Indiegogo fundraising site.

Check out the campaign as it nears its final days. They are very close to their original goal and hoping, soon, to announce stretch goals to further the work. As Reed says, “plays are not written, they're rewritten,” and he wants to get this one right.

This campaign started on Jun 26 and will close on August 15, 2014 (11:59pm PT). The goal is almost reached and needs your support:

Ron Reed, play about the friendship between JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis

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