“Auditions for Shadowlands, British accents a help!”
It was those seven words that launched a 55 year old David Payne on the most unexpected journey of his life. Intrigued, he attended the audition at Nashville’s prestigious Tennessee Performing Arts Center in the hopes of landing a small part in this play about CS Lewis and his American wife. It was no surprise he nailed the British accent because, duh, he’s British! What was a surprise is that he landed the lead role and a stage career had been begun!
Since those early performances in 1996, Payne who, on stage, uncannily looks like Lewis, has since played the famous author in a number of Shadowland productions. Yet it is his portrayal of Lewis in An Evening with CS Lewis that has won him many accolades and thrilled the many, many thousands that have attended over 500 performances.
Payne first encountered Lewis on his 17th birthday when a friend gave him a copy of The Screwtape Letters. Little did he realize that 45 years later this book would inspire him to write his first stage musical, Target Practice. Set in the Academy of Fiends, this energetic show features a cantankerous professor (Payne) tutoring some junior fiends on the art of tripping up humans (Targets). Since then Payne has written two Lewis based stage plays – Weep for Joy and St. Jack & the Dragon dealing with the two main women in Lewis’ life. The former, his American wife Joy and the latter his adopted mother. He was commissioned to write a number of biblically based plays for a Nashville based Bible college and after completing the audio version of a new Bible translation, was also commissioned to write Prisoner of Passion, a drama based on an hour in the life of Paul the Apostle.
Payne, who lives in the UK, continues to tour throughout the US. Off the road he is either writing or filming. He is widowed with two sons and three grandchildren.
More about Payne’s inspiration and CS Lewis taken from Lancaster Online.