By Kathryn Smith-McGlynn, MFA MPA
Got religion? Judaism, Christianity, Muslim, Hinduism, Buddhism…is there really something out there greater than us mere human beings and with so many pathways, do they all lead to the same thing? Religion or a lack thereof, remains a hot topic among the young and old. From disillusioned baby boomers leaving the Church in droves to the millennium generation creating their own brand of ‘pub theology’ (bible study and a pint), it seems folks today are stepping back and taking stock of what religion really means to them and how it fits into their lives(1). Emergents, Atheists, Agnostics, even entertainers are getting into the mix. Case in point, after a long hiatus, Hip Hop Artist ‘Speech’ of the grammy award winning group Arrested Development is stepping back into the spotlight, only now he is out right ministering and not just through music. Speech is creator of The Mixtape, a religious endeavor that combines entertainment networking with religion. Mixtape’s tag line is “Edification Through Holy Scripture” — that isn’t a far cry from the group’s hit song “Tennessee” which asks the Lord to:
“Take me to another place
Take me to another land
Make me forget all that hurts me
Let me understand your plan”
On the surface it may look like a new trend, but of course the debate over religion really isn’t a novel idea. The fact is, Man [and Woman], has disagreed over the existence of God for ages and those that do believe have fought over who to believe in, how to believe and where to believe [worship] and like Speech, artists and cultural icons have at times been at the center of the debate.
A dramatization of such a debate between two historical icons drives the action in Frontera Repertory Theatre Company’s upcoming production Freud’s Last Session. In what are the last weeks of Freud’s life, between bomb scares and high tea, Sigmund Freud and C.S. Lewis butt heads as they engage in heated discourse on religion, sex, and a myriad of topics, on the day England enters World War II.
C.S. Lewis, perhaps best known for penning The Chronicles of Narnia, was a Christian Apologist in the latter part of his life. He started out however, as an atheist. An atheist who used the science of Sigmund Freud as the basis of his rationalization (which he later rejected when he turned to Christianity). Freud on the other hand was steady in espousing his psychoanalytic theories grounded in science on everything from sex to God. So why did Lewis change his mind about believing and was Freud really as staunch an atheist as was thought? Freud’s Last Session ponders these questions and more and is sure to spur dialogue on one of the most controversial subjects in history.
(1 According to research conducted by The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, “The number of Americans who do not identify with any religion continues to grow at a rapid pace. One-fifth of the U.S. public – and a third of adults under 30 – are religiously unaffiliated today, the highest percentages ever in Pew Research Center polling.”)
Freud’s Last Session stars Jac Alder who re-creates the title role of “Sigmund Freud,” which he performed last fall in Dallas to great acclaim. Appearing opposite Mr. Alder is Tony nominated and Obie award winner Stephen Bogardus as “C.S. Lewis.” Freud’s Last Session is presented May 4 & 5 at the Philanthropy Theatre in downtown El Paso, as part of Frontera Repertory Theatre Company’s concert playreading series. Tickets may be purchased at the Plaza Theatre Box Office, Ticketmaster.com, and all Ticketmaster outlets, or call (800)745-3000. For more information visit www.fronterarep.org.
Kathryn Smith-McGlynn, MFA, MPA, is an El Paso-based actor, scholar and writer. She is a Visiting Assistant Professor at the University of Texas at El Paso and Co-Founding Artistic Director/Executive Producer of Frontera Repertory Theatre Company.
Photographs courtesy of Frontera Rep Theater