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Bible's story comes to life in 'Gospel of John'
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Brad Sherrill stars in the one-man production, “The Gospel of John,” playing today through Saturday at Gainesville State College’s Ed Cabell Theatre.

The Gospel of John’

When: 7:30 p.m. Friday-Sunday
Where: Ed Cabell Theatre, Gainesville State College, 3820 Mundy Mill Road, Oakwood
How much: $10
More info: Gainesville Theatre Alliance

Imagine sitting down to read a book of the Bible and being so moved by it that you committed it to memory.

And then performed that book in front of your church. And then performed that book another 500-plus times over the next eight years in churches in 40 states and the United Kingdom.

Oh yeah, and had a few runs off Broadway, too, in cities such as Washington D.C., Chicago and Atlanta.

Such is the story of “The Gospel of John,” a one-man play performed by Brad Sherrill Friday through Sunday at Gainesville State College’s Ed Cabell Theatre in Oakwood. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. and tickets are $10.

The show is simple yet powerful. We’re not talking a man in a robe, fake beard and sandals; rather, it’s Sherrill in contemporary clothes using a table and a lamp to help identify a room or a boat.

And while it’s not a recital of the Gospel of John, Sherrill said, it is the entire book from start to finish.

“The comment I hear most from congregations and audiences is, you brought it to life. ... It is very energetic,” he said. “The structure, the way the book is written, you’re still on the edge of your seats throughout it. So it’s anything but dull.

"I try to be very clear and direct, because typically people don’t read an entire Gospel in one sitting. So to get the whole thing from beginning to end, you really get its structure and a lot of things jump out at you that you might not otherwise get.”

It’s an exciting and profound two hours and 25 minutes, Sherrill said, and no matter how many times he performs it, it doesn’t seem stale or boring to him.

“I look at the Gospel as a living word,” Sherrill said. “We read it and we can read it 100 different times and it’s always going to affect us in a different way. ... So, it’s a fresh thing for me. It is alive in a different way. The text does not change, but the way it comes out is always different given the setting, who the audience is.”

So while the way the play is performed has changed in the eight years Sherrill has been doing it, it has helped him go even deeper into the material.

“There’s always something that can be revealed through this great story.”

The Gospel of John is his favorite book of the Bible, Sherrill said, and that’s what started him on this journey.

A native of Chamblee, Sherrill walked out on his porch one day and set about memorizing the prologue to the Gospel of John. It was a devotional exercise, he said, and then he started thinking of a way he could share it.

A little more than four months later, Sherrill had memorized the entire book and performed it for his church. Before he knew it, he was planning lighting and blocking for a production at Theater in the Square in Marietta.

But even at that time, the idea of doing an entire book from the Bible as a dramatic production was not new. Sherrill said the Gospel of Mark had a successful run in the 1970s, and he has a friend who had success with Revelations.

But John spoke to him.

“John’s always been my favorite Gospel. The other three are heavy on narrative and reporting of events,” he said of the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke. “John, which has been called the most poetic Gospel, it just takes things to a different level. It’s always been my favorite.”

The “final discourse,” in John, the section telling the story before Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion, is what speaks the loudest to him, Sherrill added.

“He calls us to be servants to one another, to be kind to one another, and that’s just beautiful,” he said. “And then right before the arrest he prays for his disciples and for believers in the future, so that section has always made it my favorite.”

For now, though, Sherrill said he enjoys finding new ways to spread his ministry and the story of John. The show is demanding both mentally and physically, but as long as he’s able to keep doing it, Sherrill said he will keep bringing the story to audiences.

“You could not do this halfheartedly; it’s different from other fine plays I’ve been in,” he said. “It’s a calling and a ministry for me, and a ministry to other people.”

And, he said, he wants others to experience what has moved him for all these years.

“I don’t want people to say, ‘Oh, he has a great memory,’” he said. “I want people to say, ‘What a riveting story.’”

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