BWW Interview: Ken Jennings On Presenting THE GOSPEL OF JOHN and How It Acts as a Prayer for Daily Life
This holiday season, the Sheen Center for Thought and Culture will present The Gospel of John, conceived and performed by award-winning Broadway veteran Ken Jennings (Sweeney Todd, Grand Hotel, Side Show) and directed by John Pietrowski. Jennings brings the Gospel powerfully to life in a thrilling 90-minute solo performance.
BroadwayWorld had the unique opportunity to connect with Jennings during rehearsals to learn more about his journey with the Gospel of John; how he will approach performances; and how this Gospel acts as a prayer that provides guidance for everyday life.
How did your journey with the Gospel of John begin?
I've always liked this particular Gospel. The most important counsel the Jesuits gave us was to always remember to pray. I started reading Scripture decades ago and still carry a small Bible that I had since Sweeney Todd.
This particular Gospel has been so meaningful in my life and helped me through a difficult time. I wanted to turn the struggle into something good. I began to memorize the passages and performed in churches and was really excited when The Sheen Center heard of it and wanted to produce it.
In your opinion, how does this particular Gospel stand out from the others?
I went to Catholic school and a Jesuit high school and college. The journey of our soul is a lifelong one and teaches us many things over the course of our experiences. The Gospel of John has allowed me to live a kinder, humbler, and gentler life. This one is so specific as to time and place and I really appreciate that detail. I wanted to tell this in the way John first told the story, when it was a time of simple oral tradition.
What do you hope listeners will take away from your performance?
I want to tell this story with emotion and passion and purposefully don't present it as an actor, because John wasn't an actor. It's hard to say what the listener will take away, but I don't think they will have heard the story told in this way, from beginning to end. John really tells the arc of the story, which I think makes it unique.
How do you take care of yourself during performances and find the energy for the full 90 minutes?
There is something about this production that is so different than what I've done - there are no dance steps and no harmonies. I'm very aware of how much of a blessing this Gospel is and how it acts as a prayer that flows through my entire life. No matter what state of weariness I may be in, I want to cherish this blessing and have that be apparent and fully present in my performances. I'm experiencing a new level of excitement and after a full career, I am so thrilled to embark on a project like this!
The Gospel of John is presented by The Sheen Center for Thought and Culture and will run from November 30 - December 29, 2019. Visit: https://www.sheencenter.org/shows/john/2019-11-30/ for more information.
Photo by Maria Baranova