By Carla Caldwell
Atlanta actor Brad Sherrill felt he was led in 2000 to study the Bible’s book of John.
He consumed the text over four and half months, studying it six hours a day and committing each word to memory.
Upon completion, he recited the entire text on his front porch, using simple props such as a chair and lamp for emphasis.
Members of his church, Chamblee First United Methodist, heard about his project and invited him to perform it. Then more churches issued invitations. Inspired by the response, he asked Marietta’s Theater in the Square if he could use a small space for performances. They agreed, Sherrill jokes, because he only needed to flip on the lights. He brought the chair and lamp with him.
Seats filled. Word spread and requests for performances multiplied.
Sherrill, an Artistic Associate at Georgia Shakespeare, based at Oglethorpe University in Brookhaven, now is marking almost 600 performances of his critically acclaimed “The Gospel of John.” He’s performed throughout the country and internationally.
He will perform the production, and the world premier of his new project, “Prophets”, March 24-28 for Georgia Shakespeare at the Conant Performing Arts Center on the Oglethorpe campus.
“John” focuses on the New Testament’s account of the life, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The production is not an adaptation, but rather a word-for-word dramatic recitation. “Prophets”, a multi-media production, explores prophets of the Old Testament and God’s concerns for the direction in which people were heading.
The subject matter – greed and idols – is timely, Sherrill says.
“We’ve seen where the global economy has gone and the mistakes made,” said Sherrill. “So much of that is centered on greed. We know we are in despair economically and psychologically.”
In “Prophets,” a golden calf worshipped by people who have turned away from God morphs into the Merrill Lynch bull.
Sherrill, who lives in Chamblee, has performed in scores of secular productions. He says he is still surprised sometimes that he was driven to memorize and perform the fourth Gospel, and later the Old Testament texts.
Yet, in many ways it makes sense, he said.
Sherrill was raised in the church and as a young boy landed a small role in a church theater production. He often had to wait up to three hours to take the stage, but he didn’t complain. Taking in the sights and sounds instilled a love for the theater and shaped his career choice.
He’s performed in 20 Alliance Theater productions and in 45 productions during 20 seasons at Georgia Shakespeare, earning awards and stellar reviews. His show “Gospel of John” received praise from The Washington Post, New York Times, Chicago Tribune, and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
These days, he performs his shows eight months out of the year. He works with Georgia Shakespeare in the summer and with Alliance Theater during the Christmas holidays.
He said he enjoys every show and is grateful for the opportunity to perform. The Bible-based works, however, have changed his life, he said.
“God is now at the forefront of my life. I find myself trying to live more Christ-like.
As an actor, I used to worry about whether people would like me. Now, I worry more being a servant to people in need.
“With ‘Prophets,’ these texts convict me – and inspire me. ”
The production goes from judgment to loss and then hope in 90 minutes.
“It’s this simple. God loves us. He is concerned about us and where we are going. God is saying, ‘I created you. I love you. You are my child. Come back.’”
For tickets and information, call Georgia Shakespeare at 404-264-0020, or go online at gashakespeare.org.