For a limited engagement in the Octagon theatre at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival, actor Bruce Kuhn is presenting an evocative telling of The Gospel of Luke: King James Version, a recounting aimed at the Gentiles that emphasizes prayer and action.
Dressed in casual boots and jeans on an almost bare stage -- a chair and a lectern only -- and equipped with a versatile imagination and vocal dexterity in lieu of props, Mr. Kuhn performs Luke's Gospel that continues the "oral tradition" common before the Gospels were written down to recount the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth.
Audiences don't have to be Biblical scholars, though it was clear during the talk-back that followed the opening night performance that many who were present had more than a passing acquaintance with Scripture, and that there were references in The Gospel of Luke to the Book of Genesis, Acts, and the other three Gospel accounts.
Indeed, the complete Gospel isn't spoken here; Mr. Kuhn, who has been performing this for over twenty years, selects from the lengthy narrative per performance, guaranteeing that each audience receives a unique telling, though he insists that the ending of the narrative never changes.
On opening night, the content remained chronologically faithful, recounting a litany of moments in the life of Jesus, his behavior, several miracles, and a lot of his teaching through parables; included in Mr. Kuhn's narrative were familiar stories of the woman at the well, the curing of cripples, the loaves and fishes, the Good Samaritan, Martha and Mary, the mustard seed, the lost sheep, the Prodigal Son, the adulterous woman, and the road to Emmaus.
And all with the same purpose, to emphasize two things: (1) "Fear not" [a frequent refrain to assure listeners that they are in good hands], and (2) to not simply to hear the Word, but to act upon it. "Love your enemies," "Do good," "Treat others as you would be treated," "Don't expect anything in return for your good deeds," "Be merciful," "Don't judge."
Mr. Kuhn has no intention of converting anyone, and the success of his performance wherein he narrates and portrays the numerous characters and their stories with sincerity and humor, is that the lessons in it resonate today in a world driven by tribal divisions and intolerance as in the time they were written.