In “The Prophets,” a dramatic presentation based on Biblical texts, actor and storyteller Brad Sherrill brings together two interconnected aspects of his craft: his creativity as an artist and his faith as a member of the religious community. In so doing, he highlights the potential power of both in working to create positive social change.
Sherrill, from Atlanta, will be in Juneau next week to perform “The Prophets” at Northern Light United Church. This will be his second appearance in Juneau; he presented “The Gospel of John” at Northern Light in 2004, a work that involved his memorization of that entire book of the Bible — all 20,000 words.
“The Prophets,” which debuted in January 2010, is based on Isaiah, Jeremiah and other Old Testament texts, and incorporates those ancient writings with 21st century imagery, highlighting the modern applications of these teachings.
Sherrill said though the prophets are often associated with ideas of repentance and “doom and gloom,” they ultimately provide a message of hope, one that is very pertinent to contemporary issues of social injustice, war and human suffering.
“(The prophets) are really holding a mirror up to us and saying, ‘I want you to pay attention to God, to your neighbor, to the orphan and the widow, I want you to take care of each other. They have a vision — expressed in great poetry — of the dream of God, great forgiveness, mercy, love and homecoming.”
In discussing the modern applications of the prophets’ teachings, Sherrill cited the influence of Martin Luther King Jr., whose birthday was celebrated earlier this week. King quoted the prophets “endlessly,” Sherrill said, and, like them, offered people a vision of what could be possible between races in his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. He is also a great example of how one person can affect lasting change.
“Any kind of transformation starts at a personal level,” Sherrill said. “It’s got to start that way. Every action makes some other action happen.”
Northern Light Pastor Dr. Phil Campbell, who is making local arrangements for the visit, said he feels Sherrill’s message is both timely and timeless.
“In some ways the challenges of developing a just society and governing justly ... are questions that societies throughout time have wrestled with,” Campbell said.
Sherrill’s visit highlights the church’s commitment to stimulate discussion about how to create a more peaceful and just world, as well as its dedication to help foster the well-being of everyone in the community, both within and outside of the church.
“My hope is that this production will be an opportunity to share that message with a broader community,” Campbell said.
As part of the effort to encourage a wide audience, Campbell said the church has decided to offer tickets on a pay-as-you-can basis; admission to the performance usually costs $15. Sherrill’s dramatic presentation is accessible to those outside of the religious community, Campbell added, as it also operates as “great theater.”
Sherrill, named Atlanta’s Best Dramatic Actor by Atlanta Magazine in 2000, has been professional actor since 1983, and has performed at every professional theater in Atlanta, including more than 45 productions at the Georgia Shakespeare Theatre. He has performed “The Gospel of John” more than 600 times around the world, and describes himself primarily as a storyteller, one who is carrying on an oral tradition that extends back thousands of years. His intensive study and deep contemplation of the Bible and how its teachings can be applied to the modern world has also made him something of an “amateur theologian,” he said.
In this production, Sherrill said he hopes to highlight the message of the texts rather than his performance itself.
“Really, all I’m trying to do is to let these texts, these ancient texts, come alive for us now. And I want to do that in a clean, theologically sound way. I don’t want people to say, ‘Wow that’s a great performance!’ I want people to say ‘Wow, listen to that!’”
Sherrill’s performance begins at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 26, at Northern Light United Church.
To view a preview of this show or to find out more about Sherrill, visit at www.gospelofjohn.com.