Mark St. Germain, creator of the iconic play Freud’s Last Session, reveals the mechanics behind pairing Sigmund Freud with C. S. Lewis for a fictional debate.
Q: What inspired you to create Freud’s Last Session?
A: I saw a book called “The Question of God” by Dr. Armand Nicholi, which contrasts both Sigmund Freud’s and C. S. Lewis’ beliefs. At the end of the book, the author said there was a young Oxford man who visited Freud shortly before his death and wouldn’t it have been fascinating if it were C. S. Lewis. That was all I needed. I just imagined the idea of these two people who are totally opposite meeting together…and that was enough. When two people who are diametrically opposed in beliefs, I thought there was a possibility of good drama.
Q: As the play is centered on legendary Sigmund Freud and C.S. Lewis, do you have a personal connection to/interest in one or both men?
A: I’ll plead the fifth. There are many things about both men I admire.
Q: How did you gather your information about details of Freud and Lewis’s lives?
A: Many, many biographies. I spent about a year and a half researching. To me, the hardest thing about researching was that after you read a half dozen books on each person, you know what they believed, but you need to know who they are. The biggest research was finding out who these people were, otherwise the play would turn into just a debate, a faceoff.
Q: In a battle of wits between Freud and Lewis, who do you think would win?
A: They are both brilliant in their own ways. What I like about their discussions in the play is that it’s about civil discourse—something rare today.
Q: If you could ask Freud or Lewis one question with unlimited time to answer, what would you ask?
A: I think I’d choose to ask both of them, in the hour before they died, if they were at peace.
Q: What do you hope people will take away from the play?
A: Questions. Taking the time to think about things they normally do not. Or, as Lewis says, “To come awake. Stay awake.”
Freud’s Last Session plays at Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati through Sunday, February 17, 2013. For more information or to purchase tickets, click here.