Max Mclean, Founder and Artistic Director
Each year, FPA’s board of directors asks me to complete a self-evaluation process. As president and artistic director, it requires me to respond to eight questions. The first question is this: “What do you believe has been your most significant leadership achievement during the past year?”
To answer that question this year, I listed nine items beginning with “guiding FPA through the pandemic-driven shutdown.” Producing live events is our mission in action. It was a shock to our system when we had to shut down tours of The Screwtape Letters, The Great Divorce and C.S. Lewis on Stage.
Once we recovered from the shock of March 2020, we became innovative and for the next year and a half pivoted to filmmaking and virtual theatrical productions. This newsletter reflects quite a bit on our first film, The Most Reluctant Convert, that will be released this fall. But our investment in virtual productions of Martin Luther on Trial, Shadowlands and Easter Passion, among others, cannot be overstated. Not only did they allow us to use our creative muscles productively in a pandemic year, but these events were viewed by almost 150,000 people. FPA doubled its mailing list during the past year, which provided important financial support at a time when ticket volume had fallen from 2,000 a week to zero.
Just as important was the headspace the past year provided to do the research and writing for a follow-up play to The Most Reluctant Convert. It is called C.S. Lewis on Stage: Further Up & Further In. It begins just after Lewis’ conversion in 1931 and captures his growing influence as he expresses the appeal of Christianity to intellectuals and skeptics. The play will be developed this fall and open next spring.
I think the timing of the work is providential. Part of my research is reading and listening to how public intellectuals interpret current cultural trends. Many, of course, embrace the progressive agenda but others, such as Naill Ferguson and Douglas Murray, to name two, are deeply concerned about the direction our culture is heading. Neither embrace the Christian story as true; however, they express great admiration for Christianity’s pervasive influence in building up the civility that is now on the verge of collapse.
Ferguson puts it this way: “I know I can’t achieve religious faith, but I do think we should go to church. We don’t have…an evolved ethical system. I don’t buy the idea that evolution alone gets us to be moral…. There’s just too much evidence that when the constraints of civilization fall away, we behave in the most savage way to one another. I’m a big believer that with the inherited wisdom of a two-millennia-old religion, we’ve got a pretty good framework to work with.”
Douglas Murray, in a recent interview, expressed dismay that “overnight, Winston Churchill is now seen as a reprehensible figure.” In extolling the Christian virtue of forgiveness, he said, “Without Churchill, we would not have made a stand on D-Day, let alone won the war. But if that counts as nothing because Churchill once made a mistake that is no longer forgivable, then there is no point in acting anymore.”
He also expressed the view that secularism is incapable of creating an ethic of equality that matches the concept that all humans are created in the image of God. He notes that post-Christian society has only three options. The first is to abandon the idea that all human life is precious. Another is to work furiously to nail down an atheist version of the sanctity of the individual. And if that doesn’t work? “Then there is only one other place to go, which is back to faith, whether we like it or not.”
This is the world we live in, and the world the plays and films we produce at FPA are meant to inform. I’m excited to bring new work like C.S. Lewis on Stage: Further Up & Further into the conversation.
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