Side effects from hearing 2,000-year-old stories have a tendency to cause extreme drowsiness when told unimaginatively, even when the themes and storylines form the basic tenets of one’s religion. It happens even when that story comes from a book called the New Testament.
Actor Brad Sherrill seems to have found a way to battle that – he has memorized the entire gospel of John and has a unique way of reciting it, although he wouldn’t call his performance a resuscitation. He considers the show his ministry and has performed “The Gospel of John” 600 times across the United States and worldwide since 2001.
“I feel that too often we can look at it as a story that we’ve known our whole lives [and say] ‘Well, this happened 2,000 years ago.’ And I think if you do that, the scriptures become flattened out,” Sherrill said. “My point is that the scriptures are alive and relevant to us today.”
Sherill will bring his act to Salem Presbyterian Church at 4 p.m. on Sunday, November 7. So Salem interviewed Sherrill to get more on the story behind the show.
For more information, visit the website at www.gospelofjohn.com or call Salem Presbyterian (located on the corner of Market and Main) at 389-3881. Admission is free.
Q: Where did the inspiration come from to perform an entire book of the bible? How did this all begin?
A: I was led to memorize it kind of as a devotional act. I just went out on my porch and learned the prologue … I never planned to perform it the way I have been doing …
I’d learn three chapters at a time. By the time I got it all learned, in four and a half months, then my church asked me to do it for a service … Now I [have] work [ed on this show] eight months out of the year for the last 10 years. It continues to surprise me and humble me that the response has been so good. It’s a living word, and I just try to bring the strength and clarity it deserves.
Q: When did you begin acting? How did you start your career?
A: Actually, ever since third grade, I’ve been interested in writing plays and being in them. I really began acting at my church, it had a really strong drama ministry. That was when I was 11, and my first play was Camelot … I knew very early on what was speaking to me.
Q: How do you perform entirely alone? What’s the most difficult part?
A: What you learn doing an individual performance is that the audience is your partner … There’s nobody that’s going to help you out if you forget a line.
Q: What’s your favorite moment during the performance?
A: When you’ve done something for ten years and over 600 performances, you find a lot of those moments. But I think what originally drew me to it were the chapters 13 through 17 right before Jesus is arrested … Here is Jesus Christ washing the dirty feet of his disciples saying “Now you do this for one another. Take care of another and serve one another.” And this is the command that is being echoed 2,000 years later…
Q: What do you get out of the show? How has it changed your life?
A: Well, it has transformed my life. You can’t live with this book inside of you for ten years and share it with people all over the world and not have it change you in some way … God is kind of what I’m trying to get closer to – faith is a lifelong pilgrimage and it’s not always easy. So it has changed my life. It’s made things that weren’t as important more important for me. And I think its what our faith calls each of us to do. To maybe not stay in one place but to be on the road a bit because Jesus is always moving in the gospels …
You know, I’m just a conduit. It’s not about me as a performer. I don’t want people to say ‘Wow, he’s a great performer,’ I want people to come and say ‘Wow, what a great story.’
Q: Why is it important for you to wear modern dress during performances?
A: Because I feel that too often we can look at it as a story that we’ve known our whole lives, ‘Well, this happened 2,000 years ago.’ And I think if you do that, the scriptures become flattened out … My point is that the scriptures are alive and relevant to us today … If I’m in a fake beard and a robe and sandals, it’s too much like a play, like ‘Isn’t this nice, it’s about Jesus.’ If I’m dressed up in modern clothes, and I stand up out of an audience, it feels more like ‘Here’s a modern day apostle, telling a story that’s going to impact us now.’