One-man show 'Red Letter Jesus' brings the Gospel to life

lgierer@ledger-enquirer.comMarch 29, 2014 

Special to the Ledger-EnquirerActor Brad Sherrill will perform "Red Letter Jesus" on April 9 at First Presbyterian Church.

Actor Brad Sherrill asks his audience to imagine what it would be like to be in a crowd that Jesus was addressing, to be seated at his feet as he spoke.

"To hear the words of Jesus in a clear, direct way, even people who are not of faith, it still has a powerful effect on them," he said.

Sherrill will be presenting his one-man show "Red Letter Jesus" at First Presbyterian Church in Columbus on April 9. It is free to the public.

"It is one thing to preach about Jesus but another to hear him preach," the 51-year-old actor said.

Sherill has played many different roles in a long career but believes nothing could be better than Jesus.

"His are words that have changed the world," he said. "Jesus was such a pivotal figure. Gandhi was not a Christian but read the sermon on the mount every day for 20 years of his life."

In the show, Sherrill wears no costume. There is no beard. There are few props.

"I keep it modern," he said. "I do that because the words of Jesus are just as challenging and radical today as they were 2,000 years ago. The texts are just as inspiring and vital for us as they were then. I want the performance to be about the words, because the words are really powerful."

He calls his show "Jesus Unplugged." He said it is not a recital.

"It is not dry," Sherrill said. "It is passionate and engaging."

He started doing the show in 2011 and has given 100 performances.

The Rev. Chuck Hasty of First Presbyterian said Sherrill was in Columbus about five or six years ago doing "The Gospel of John," which he called a powerful show with a performance that was mesmerizing.

"He brought the Gospel to life in an enjoyable and informative way," Hasty said.

Hasty expects this new show to also be inspiring with a video showing the places in Israel and Jordan where Jesus said the words Sherrill is speaking.

"When Jesus gives the sermon on the mount you can see a grassy hill," Sherrill said. "It helps because we are a visual culture."

He has done the "The Gospel of John" about 800 times. For that show, he memorized the entire Gospel, some 20,000 words.

"It is an enormous amount of text to learn," he said. "It takes discipline."

Sherrill believes this show, which runs approximately 95 minutes, will appeal to a wide audience.

"Even people who don't go to church are curious about what Jesus said," he said.

Sherrill, who lives in Atlanta and tours worldwide, grew up in Chamblee, Ga., and did his first acting at Chamblee Methodist Church. He said if not for that church performance, he might have never become a professional actor.

In 2000, he was named by Atlanta Magazine as Atlanta's best actor.

He also does a lot of other work, including performing regularly with the Georgia Shakespeare Festival. One of his favorite roles is playing of Brick in Tennessee Williams' play "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof."

In a review of his performance, The New York Times called Sherrill "a poised performer with a subtle physical grace."

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution said in a review, "Sherrill entertains and cajoles, moves and mesmerizes."

For a while, he studied journalism. Sherrill attended the University of Georgia and Georgia State University. He said he always knew, though, he was meant to be an actor.

"I am looking forward to coming back to Columbus," he said.

The show is at the church on April 9 at 6:15 p.m. Those interested in eating dinner before the show should call 706-322-4523 or email jwilliams@columbusfpc.org by April 7. Dinner is $7 for adults and $3 for children. The family maximum is $20.

On April 10, there will be a men's prayer breakfast at 7 a.m. A lunch featuring a Q&A with Sherrill will be held at the church at noon. Donations will be requested to cover the cost of the meal.

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