On August 13-15 Abilene witnessed a fencing match of wits between two of the most brilliant minds of the 20th century in a play that did not shy away from hard questions, one of them being the existence of God.
In co-production with The Legacy Theatre in Atlanta, ACU Theatre presented Freud’s Last Session to audiences at Fulks Theatre. The play was directed by ACU Theatre Professor Gary Varner and portrays a fictional debate in 1939 England between Christian author and professor C.S. Lewis and Dr. Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalysis.
The play was written by Mark St. Germain and is based off a suggestion from the book The Question of God by Dr. Armand M. Nicholi, Jr. The touching, and at times humorous, debate between Freud and Lewis covered a number of subjects including love, sex, death and God.
ACU alumnus Mark Smith portrayed C.S. Lewis and said he found it interesting to research the early life of his character, as Freud’s Last Session is set before Lewis had written his most famous works.
“I only looked at his life before the year 1939,” Smith said. “As an actor, I didn’t want the other stuff that happened later on to come into the play because it hadn’t happened in my life on stage yet.”
Smith researched Lewis’s earlier years, which included looking into the author’s childhood, the loss of his mother at nine years old, his service in World War I and the aftermath of his time in the war.
“Instead of coming at it from an intellectual point of view and looking at the mind of C.S. Lewis, I really tried to look at the man,” Smith said. “I tried to look at his emotional and spiritual makeup at this particular time.”
ACU Theatre Professor Adam Hester reprised his role as Sigmund Freud, which he performed last year. He said a play like Freud’s Last Session certainly wants its audience to leave with a message.
“The takeaway, you hope, could be a variety of things, and for Freud’s Last Session, I was really hoping that people would reevaluate their world view,” Hester said. “For me it really brought in a starker understanding of the dilemma of suffering and pain and how it is very difficult to have a good response to a nonbeliever.”
Hester also said it’s important for plays like these to shake up an audience.
“I think for many people, we’ve become satisfied or settled in what we believe and sometimes even dig our heels in,” Hester said. “I was hoping this play would offer the opportunity for people to engage in conversation and open more natural pathways into discussing things.”
Smith and Hester said being in the play helped them understand others’ beliefs.
“I think this play is important because it deals with huge life topics,” Smith said. “The meaning of suffering, the nature of good and evil, heaven and hell, the afterlife. Big topics that we all wrestle with, whether we come from a Christian or a non-spiritual background. It helps us understand different points of view.”
Freud’s Last Session was the first co-production between ACU Theatre and The Legacy Theatre in Atlanta, which is owned by Smith and his wife Bethany. The play will have a three-weekend run at The Legacy Theatre starting Sept. 18 and will maintain Smith and Hester in their respective roles. Visit thelegacytheatre.org for more information about the upcoming production.
Adam Hester: firstname.lastname@example.org 325-674-2021
Mark Smith: email@example.com 404-895-6626
And even though he didn’t respond Gary Varner (director): firstname.lastname@example.org
I also have a pdf of the program, just text or email if you need it. 325-518-0529