In a culture of entertainment that celebrates young love, the play “Shadowlands” is a reminder that romance can blossom at all ages.
“Simply put, it is a story of how it is never too late to start over, to fall in love, to have newfound passion, and never too late to find hope and joy,” says Julie Lucido, who plays the American poet Joy Gresham in the Good Company Players production at the 2nd Space Theatre.
Her character’s beloved is none other than the famed novelist and theologian C.S. Lewis, who is played by Gordon Moore. We caught up with Lucido via email to talk about the production.
Q: Who was Joy Davidman Gresham?
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A: She was an American writer with a Jewish background, associations with the Communist Party, a noted atheist, and eventually converted Christian. The play picks up from a recent correspondence between her and C.S. Lewis and shares the developing friendship and ultimately love story of the two.
C.S. Lewis is best known for his fantasy series for children “The Chronicles of Narnia,” and fans of that series will find some of the messaging and themes woven into the play itself.
Q: How did they meet?
A: Lewis and Gresham wrote extensively to each other about literature, personal viewpoints and Lewis’ novels. While he received many letters from fans, it was the letters from Joy that seemed to engage him on a higher intellectual level and piqued his interest. In the play, Joy, along with her son Douglas, arrives in England with an offer of meeting for tea. The first in-person meeting is not exactly as expected for either of them, but from there, a slow development of true friendship begins.
Q: Playwright William Nicholson fictionalized parts of the love story between Lewis and Gresham. Did you go to any other sources for background on these characters?
A: I did actually go to other sources as I love doing research and found it fascinating to play a “real” person. As soon as I was cast, I began learning about my character of Joy. Since the letters were the first step in their relationship, I read excerpts of “The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis,” as well as “Out of My Bone: The Letters of Joy Davidman,” and scoured the Internet to get a sense of their history and personas.
In part of my research, I learned Joy read to her son the “Narnia” books each night at bedtime, and I even started doing that with my own 8-year-old daughter each night. I also learned about her past, her opinions, and in many ways she did fit the mold of a woman in the 1950s. She was definitely a woman before her time in thoughts of independence and working as a woman. But she also had a very sad history of abuse, which is alluded to in the play, but in reading about it, gave me great perspective on her. I also read “A Grief Observed” by Lewis, which gave me insight to his reflections, thoughts and emotions on how close they were as a couple.
But, then rehearsals began and lines needed to be learned, so I put the learning away so that I could focus on the play as it was written and building the voice of the character the playwright had developed.
And as all inspiration stories go, there are differences between the real world and the invention of the playwright, so I live in the world the playwright has created.
Q: How do you describe the relationship between Lewis and Gresham?
A: One that started as intellectual equals, which in a male-dominated and much reserved era was unusual, and grew into a deep and passionate love. But I think it best to use a quote from Lewis himself from “Grief”: “She was my daughter and my mother, my pupil and my teacher, my subject and my sovereign; and always, holding these in solution, my trusty comrade, friend, shipmate, fellow-soldier. My mistress; but at the same time all that any man friend (and I have good ones) has ever been to me.”
Q: Your biggest challenge in this production?
A: I would say the line load, but I can’t, as Gordon Moore, who plays C.S. Lewis, has infinitely more lines than me! But kidding aside, working to convey simple honesty night after night of an emotional piece so that the journey rings true. It has been awhile since I have done a straight play. I find it equally exhausting to singing and dancing all night long but in a different way.
Q: Final thoughts?
A: While some people may come to see the play because it carries a message of faith and spirituality that resonates with them, or others may come because they are fans of C.S. Lewis, I encourage anyone to come. The messages are universal.
- 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays through Oct. 11
- 2nd Space Theatre, 928 E. Olive Ave.
- www.gcplayers.com, (559) 266-0660
- $18, $15 students and seniors