"I'm still running like the Energizer Bunny," says Brad Sherrill, but maybe the Easter Bunny would be a better comparison. Since 2001 the Atlanta actor has staged The Gospel of John, his unabridged dramatization of the New Testament book, about 300 times in 30 states, as well as Canada and Ghana. Playing for the hometown crowd at Georgia Shakespeare Aug. 11-14 and Aurora Theatre Nov. 3-5, Sherrill explains how performing The Gospel of John brings a new meaning to "What would Jesus do?"
Is it hard to do Jesus' lines without sounding like Sunday school?
If you're an actor playing any role, from a child molester to a saint, you find the part of yourself that matches the character, and there are many characters in The Gospel of John. For the judges who condemn [Jesus], I look to the disbelief in [my] life. When I do Jesus' lines, I look to the emotions in myself about giving love. Before every performance I ask myself, "What if this is the first time the audience has ever heard this story?" and that's how I approach it.
Do you ever get a negative reaction?
Some people in the genteel South, especially older people, will sometimes say, "Why is he shouting? The Bible is not dramatic!" because they're used to having it read to them in church the most mundane way possible. They're not used to hearing the lines with passion. I'm trying to make it have the life it deserves.
Did The Passion of the Christ affect how people react to The Gospel of John?
I had very mixed feelings about the movie, and was disappointed that church people seemed to embrace it so much. But when I traveled with John, I discovered that ministers actually split about 50-50. Some thought it was the be-all and end-all and wanted to give free copies of the movie to their parishioners. I wondered, "Are you trying to scare the hell out of them?" But just as many told me, "I'd rather have people see [Gospel of John] than the movie."
Georgia Shakespeare presents The Gospel of John. Aug. 11-14, Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 and 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m. at Conant Performing Arts Centers at Oglethorpe University, 4484 Peachtree Road. $10-$35. 404-264-0020. www.gashakespeare.org. Also presented by Aurora Theatre Nov. 3-5, Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2:30 and 8 p.m. 3087-B Main St., Duluth. $18-$25. 770-476-7926. www.auroratheatre.com.