An Introduction to An Evening with C.S. Lewis

March 4, 2015 § Leave a comment


An Evening with C.S. Lewis, featuring British Actor David Payne, is a drama production that has proved to be an enthralling theatrical experience for the many thousands who have attended its performances. Written and directed by Payne and infused with the humor that Lewis was renowned for, it is a fascinating and absorbing insight into the life of a man who became a legend in his own lifetime.

An Evening with C.S. Lewis

The year is 1963 and C.S. Lewis, the famous British author, is in the twilight years of his life and has agreed to give an informal talk to a group of American writers who are visiting England. They have come to Lewis’ home, just outside of Oxford, and are eagerly anticipating hearing the man whose celebrity once landed him on the front cover of Time magazine. Lewis is in great form and his audience is spellbound as, with a display of oratory and humor that made him one of England’s most famous public speakers, he recounts the significant events and the people that shaped his life.

David Payne                                                                                                                                                                  

 David Payne was born in London and began his business life as a Structural Engineer. In the early nineties he and his wife moved to Nashville, TN but just prior to their Nashville move they attended the West End play Shadowlands. So when he came across an audition notice for a Nashville production of Shadowlands his curiosity was aroused, and all the more so when it stated “British accents a help!” Armed with his British accent he went along hoping to land a small part. He landed the lead role! When Shadowlands opened its sold-out run at Nashville’s prestigious Tennessee Performing Arts Center who should be on the front row but Lewis’ stepson, Douglas Gresham. Since that time Payne and Gresham have become firm friends. The reviews of Payne’s performance were so positive he decided to turn his attention to developing a one-man show featuring the author he first met in his teens when he was given a copy of Screwtape Letters. Thus was born An Evening with C.S. Lewis which has now logged up over 500 performances worldwide. Apart from Shadowlands and An Evening with C.S. Lewis, Payne has performed Lewis in two other self-penned plays; Weep for Joy, a drama that further explores the relationship between Lewis and his American wife Joy and St Jack & The Dragon a play that explores the relationship between Lewis and his adopted mother. A television special of An Evening with C.S. Lewis is scheduled for taping in May 2015 and an Off-Broadway run is scheduled for Spring 2016.

C.S. Lewis

Though C.S. Lewis has been dead for over 50 years, almost all his books remain in print and most are still best sellers. He was a close friend of J.R.R. Tolkien, and both authors – arguably two of the most successful of the 20th century – wrote all their books in their ‘spare time.’ Though Lewis’ writings spanned a broad range of subjects he is probably best known for his classic children’s series, The Chronicles of Narnia. First launched in 1950 with publication of The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe, all seven books remain among today’s most successful children’s books and three have been turned into blockbuster movies. Recognized as one of the great intellects of his day, Lewis always retained a great capacity for simplicity and humor and though he achieved both fame and fortune in his lifetime he remained quite indifferent to both. Indeed, he gave most of his fortune away. An Evening with C.S. Lewis takes you into the unique world of a man who lived a simple life in a modest house on the outskirts of the city of Oxford.

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A Wine Tasting Success

February 11, 2015 § Leave a comment

MetroIMG_1704polis’ 2015 Wine Tasting was a huge success, with the event well exceeding expectations and selling out with over 200 attendees! We have to thankIMG_1848 Tuscan Market and Wine Shop and their wine distributors for their support. Attendees enjoyed a wide array of wines from six different distributors including Glunz Family, 90+ Cellars,   Pinnacle, Southern, Heritage and Wirtz. Everyone walked away with their complimentary Metropolis wine tasting Napa style wine glass. In addition to the sampling of delicious wines there were hors d’ouevres with plenty of crackers and cheese to cleanse palettes and a tasty treat generously provided by Nothing Bundt Cakes. Attendees also enjoyed a raffle, participated in spinning our wheel of wine for raffle prizes, and had their taste buds tested in our “So you think you know wine?” game. The winners of this particular game won the coveted golden wine snob award and our grand prize raffle winner walked away with a bottle of Chateaux IMG_1698Letour valued at $1,600. We are so proud of our wonderful school of the performing arts students who volunteered to perform, Nathan Vartivarian on guitar and Cameron Obrecht are featured in the pictures below. Thank you to everyone who attended and we hope to see you again next year for what we hope to be a popular annual event. We think it’s the prefect opportunity to get everyone out to enjoy some wine in the dreariest part of our Chicago winters. We can’t wait for next year, sure to be even bigger and better!


Patron Review of Private Lives

January 20, 2015 § Leave a comment

By Bill Neumann

I saw Metropolis’ production of Private Lives on the Thursday preview performance and was very impressed by the timing of this production. The pacing in this type of play is very difficult to get correct and they did a fantastic job. It seemed like they had been performing for months, not just the first preview performance. The cast blended together and the relationships were very believable. You know that the relationships created on stage are believable when the audience is reacting with gasps and exclamations. The set was wonderfully constructed and I was impressed by the set change between the first two acts as well as the lighting. To sum things up it was a great production showcasing a believable and realistic interpretation of married people.

“Private Lives” Directors Blog

January 12, 2015 § Leave a comment

Whenever I start directing a show I first think of what makes this play accessible to a modern audience. At first this seemed easy; Noel Coward’s shows are perfect for the time and place we as a culture are living in right now. At the end of the 1920’s living glamorously was what everyone aspired to. Drinking cocktails, smoking, living in Paris and looking great while doing it were the sought after norm. One look inside the pages of GQ, Vanity Fair or any other fashion journal and you can see that all these things are coming back. The artisanal cocktail is back, along with, one of last year’s biggest hair trends, the bob or pixie cut for women and mustaches for men. In addition, men and women’s fashion websites are more numerous now than ever before. Men, especially have started returning to a time before business-casual was the norm for everyday wear. We are living in Noel Coward’s world re-born.

But why has the show remained so popular through the years? Since starting the rehearsal process what I’ve realized is just how timeless the story and the characters are. While the fashion has come back around what has made this play endure throughout the decades has been its relationships. On the page Amanda and Ellyot’s relationship should not work. Amanda says to her current husband Victor at the top of the play “That was the trouble with Elyot and me, we were like two violent acids bubbling about in a nasty little matrimonial bottle.” But that’s exactly what makes them click. Some people are looking for love to be “wise, and kind, and undramatic. Something steady and sweet, to smooth out your nerves when you’re tired. Something tremendously cosy; and unflurried by scenes and jealousies.” as Elyot tells his new wife, Sybil. Most people, when they imagine their perfect relationship, are probably looking for that. However, real life never lives fully up to our expectations. Elyot and Amanda find love in argument, passion and bucking current trends. They find love in the exact opposite ideal of what society says they should want. The title “Private Lives” really says it all. The outside world looking in would never understand what makes this relationship work, but they don’t need to. All that matters is that it works for them.

In this version I promise you that the show presents laughs, tears, jazz and a record being smashed over someone’s head. From the first production meeting everyone involved has been completely on board with the glamourous style of the late 1920’s. The set and the props immediately transport us to a world of art-deco of a Paris apartment and glamour of a swanky hotel. The light design takes us from the romance of the night through eye opening morning after when we think about the choices we made the night before. The sound design will put us in a jazz club in the roaring 20’s. There is also featured music including a bit “Dream a Little Dream of Me” first recorded in 1931 and “Someday I’ll Find You” written specifically by Mr. Coward for Private Lives.

In addition the actors have truly embraced what it means to be looking and moving great in the 1920’s. From the moment they put the costumes on for the first time they were transported to the world of the play, which only helped to add the wonderful work they have been doing since we started our rehearsals in December. This group of actors is one of the closet knit groups of people I have ever had the pleasure to work with. It’s incredibley hard to find truth in comedy, but I truly feel that these artists are doing just that. I am incredibly lucky to have had the pleasure to work with them. But, all that being said, there’s still work to be done! Opening night is less than a week away! Hopefully I’ll see you there.

Dylan S. Roberts


Dial “M” Director’s Blog

August 21, 2014 § Leave a comment

I was so excited to sign onto this project, because I had never done a true psychological thriller like this before. I had directed some intense pieces such as the musical JEKYLL & HYDE, but nothing like DIAL “M” FOR MURDER with so many twists and turns throughout. The other thing I loved about the show was that it took place during the 1950’s, a time period that I happen to love because of the overall sophistication and wardrobe. There’s just an elegance about it all that makes it intriguing to me.

The staff on this show is top notch. The great thing about it is that we were all on the same page from day one. The show is centered around The Wendice’s, a wealthy couple who reside in London. Since they were wealthy, it was important for me that we show the grandiose lifestyle that they live in. I also love levels, so having a platform raise upstage was something we thought would really give the set some dimension. There are some other fun tricks we’ve concocted for the show, including some brilliantly intense fight choreography by Claire Yearman, but I definitely don’t want to give anything away.

With all shows there are challenges to overcome. This show definitely has its share of challenges. The first big challenge are the props. This show is extremely specific when it comes to who has a key, who doesn’t have a key, or if the key is placed somewhere on stage or if it’s removed. The same thing goes with stockings, scarves, handbags, glasses. Sometimes during rehearsal, we find ourselves having a NOISES OFF “sardines” moment. We stop in our tracks and say “wait, who has the key now?” or “where is that handbag?” At times, though it can be frustrating, it tends to be comical after the fact. The other thing that is challenging, is that the script is also very specific in terms of directions. I, sometimes, try to ignore some of the stage directions so I have the opportunity to get creative, but with this play, I don’t really have that option most of the time. Most of the stage directions within the script are so important to the story and what happens next that we have no other option but to do what it tells us. However, even though we have some restrictions, I think we have created a lot of great moments and stage pictures in the show. I think the audience is really going to be at the edge of their seats.

In order to have a successful show, though, it really comes down to the casting. If you have a cast that has chemistry and trust, the possibilities are very exciting. The cast for DIAL “M” FOR MURDER is a group of fearless actors that are excited to explore during rehearsals. Directing needs to be a collaborative process; not just with fellow staff members and designers, but with the actors you’re working with as well. It’s important for a director to have an idea of what he/she wants, but at the same time, the actors involved need to be apart of that creative process. I feel so fortunate to be working with these talented artists, and I am looking forward to Opening Night!

Kevin Wiczer

Executive Director Charlie Beck on The Last Five Years

May 15, 2014 § Leave a comment

I am pleased to share my thoughts regarding the latest Metropolis Production of The Last 5 Years that begins previews on May 15 and opens on May 18 to run through June 15. As has been my pleasure as Executive Director I always catch our main stage productions during their final dress rehearsals so I can attest to the work we are doing.

In a word, I loved this show.

It brings all that is great about live theatre and does so showcasing all of the strengths of Metropolis. Our intimate space is so perfect for this show. Given that it is an intimate glimpse into the love between the principals; Cathy a struggling actress and Jamie a rising star writer. I cannot imagine seeing this show anywhere but in a place like Metropolis.

Resident Director; Lauren Rawitz brings the performers front and center often, indeed, even into the house so that you cannot help but feel the emotions that are being portrayed through the terrific score and music of the show. Matt Edmonds, as Jamie and a familiar face at Metropolis and, Elissa Newcorn, as Cathy and making her debut here, display such incredible vocal skills and acting talent that one wonders how long before either or both are snatched up by a Producer on Broadway. They are indeed that good. And, they tell the stories of their love from the falling into to the dissolution of with pure honesty and emotion. Anyone who has lived and loved will find something in the score that will resonate with them. Kleenex is highly recommended.

Even better, the staging, again orchestrated by Lauren Rawitz, and the team lead by our Production Manager Bill Franz makes the maximum use of our space. No orchestra pit? No problem, let’s put the orchestra on stage behind the actors. This works extremely well as the musicians become part of the story as well they should since it is all music from end to end. Seeing music director Charlotte Rivard-Hoster and cellist David Richardson put themselves physically into the music tells you that the orchestra is not just doing a gig but feeling the show as much as the actors.

No wing space to store and move a variety of set pieces, no fly system or trap doors to make things magically appear? No problem. The stage is strewn with moving boxes which herald both the idea of moving in at the start of a relationship and moving out at the end. Creating an interesting space to look at with many levels and nooks and crannies to stage the various scenes in the show. Very cleverly conceived and executed by scenic designer and tech director Kaitlin Donelon.

Joe Mohammed’s lighting scheme adds emotional elements moving between subtle starlight, blazing sunrise, searing spotlights and brooding darkness that all serve as great counterpoint to the action on stage and the story as it unfolds.

I could not be more proud of the work done here. Art at its best is moving and shines a light of truth on the subject matter helping us to see things in a way we may not have otherwise. As love goes it has always been one of my favorite of the human emotions. Yet, it is also one of the most nuanced and can be felt in incredible highs while love is in bloom and incredible lows when it fails and withdraws.  Author, lyricist and composer Jason Robert Brown has captured all of the shades of love in this story. Some will leave feeling blue after seeing it, others will leave feeling edified and informed, some will leave saying ‘yes, I can relate’, but no one should leave without feeling something.

There is simply too much good work going on here to do otherwise.

To all who are part of this creative effort I say…wow! What an amazing thing you have done.

Anne Frank Actress Jaclyn Holtzman on Playing the Iconic Role

March 26, 2014 § 1 Comment

Anne’s story isn’t shared to make us feel miserable, and it’s not shared to make us feel fortunate or lucky or to make our trials and tribulations seem insignificant. Every struggle is real, and every struggle is relative. As she herself says, “What’s the point of thinking of misery when you’re already miserable? That’s stupid.” It is important to not misunderstand the purpose of spreading this amazing account. I am not portraying Anne so that teenagers today see how lucky they have it. Metropolis, my castmates, Kevin, and I are sharing her story to teach a lesson, to illustrate the danger of groupthink, to prevent anything similar from happening again. We are telling her story to make certain that history does not repeat itself.

We lost so much by letting evil win. Imagine what Anne’s brilliance, intuitiveness, passion, and optimism could have done for the world. Imagine where we might be if her life wasn’t cut short, if she had grown to her full potential and had unleashed her virtuosity on society.

Evil may have temporarily won, but it did not permanently prevail. Thanks to a miracle, Anne was still able to “go on living even after [her] death.” She still made her mark. The Nazis may have ended her life, but they didn’t end her spirit. It lives on through her writing and through actors like me, who are awarded the amazing opportunity to play her.

As you can imagine, this is a tall order. On one hand, Anne Frank is the easiest role an actor can play: never is an actor delivered a character’s inner thoughts on a silver platter. On the other hand, I have never been so petrified in my life. I need to do Anne justice. I need to convey how seriously frightening her life became in an instant. I need to tell her story in a way that will spur action, or more importantly reaction.

Herein lies the real challenge: effectively conveying the constant anxiety, the crippling fear, the severe loneliness, the intensifying frustration, and the courageous hope with which Anne lived every day. It is so easy to distance ourselves from the horrors that occurred 70 years ago. It is simple to pretend it will never happen again, to block our minds and our hearts from really feeling, really understanding that this actually happened. To real people. People with feelings. People with normal lives like ours. Innocent people. I have read thousands upon thousands of pages about Anne Frank, the 1940s, WWII, the Nazis, and Amsterdam. I ingested this information as facts, separated myself from it. It was not until I started watching videos that I began to feel. It is one thing to think and another to feel. This show consumes audience members and makes them feel. They will meet Anne, relate to her, and feel for her. They will realize that she was a normal teenager with normal hopes, desires, qualms, and dreams. That what happened to her could happen to them. This show will take Anne’s story from a tale to a reality. And that is why it needs to be done.



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