A Red Deer actor is relishing his role as Jesus for the Canadian Badlands Passion Play.
Aaron Krogman, who grew up in the City, has been cast as Jesus for the second year in a row.
As of its 20th season in 2013, the Canadian Badlands Passion Play in Drumheller has been seen by more than 250,000 people. It returns this year with a third weekend of shows for the first time, presenting weekend evening and matinee performances from July 11-27th. The production, which includes hundreds of performers on a stage the size of six football fields, tells the ‘greatest story ever told’ – the story of the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, in Canada’s largest natural outdoor amphitheatre.
As for his role as Jesus, Krogman said it has been an interesting role to tackle.
“It’s challenging. You want to do the research to see who Jesus is. It’s hard to know what it’s like to be God. According to the story we’re telling, Jesus is God, but he’s also man and that is the really accessible side of things,” he said. “That’s kind of the entry point – to find ways about what it would be like for me to go through these things and to know that Jesus was also man – some of these things would be resonating for him.
“I think everyone in the audience brings so much context to the story already for the character of Jesus and for the story. My job is to do the best that I can as an actor.”
He added he has enjoyed performing in such a unique setting as well.
“It’s a one-of-a-kind of experience for me. It’s quite an amazing thing to be part of 200 people that are choreographed and to have such a big audience come and give their attention to it. That doesn’t happen very often and there is something pretty amazing about it,” said Krogman. “At first it’s totally weird. It’s not a small little stage or set. It’s more realistic. When I have to carry the cross up the hill, it takes some effort and I’m really tired when I get to the top of it. It is really me carrying a beam up the hill. But it’s really cool because you don’t have to imagine most of the stuff, there’s a reality to it that makes it really palatable and real for me.”
In addition to celebrating its 20th season last year, the Passion Play was also awarded the ALTO Award for Alberta Pride. Executive Director Vance Neudorf, attributes the recent growth of the play to recent improvements on the production, increased promotional efforts and these accomplishments, but shares that most people indicate that they come to the play after hearing a recommendation from a friend.
In addition to the expanded show times, the Canadian Badlands Passion Play will feature an updated script, score, and staging, all orchestrated by a talented group of Alberta artists. More than 200 performers (a mix of professional and volunteer actors and musicians of all ages) will be featured in this production, with more than 500 volunteers contributing to the production each year, making it the largest volunteer-driven production in Alberta, and one of the biggest in Canada with more the 45,000 volunteer hours annually.
On average, 60% of attendees who experience the Passion Play are return visitors and 75% of attendees are from Alberta, with guests traveling from as far as Africa, Europe and Asia.
Krogman said for those who haven’t experienced the Passion Play, they can expect to see something spectacular.
“They can expect to see something that they think they know in a totally new way. It’s quite the spectacle – when you see the story in that setting, it’s phenomenal. There’s something that just grabs you and it’s kind of magical. It’s moving. I think people will just feel really amazed and blown away by what they see. The story is just gripping anyways – people know the story to a certain degree, so there isn’t going to be any surprises there – but seeing it in that context, I bet people will see things that they didn’t expect to see.”
He added he has enjoyed many things about working on the Passion Play and that the opportunity to play Jesus has changed him.
“It’s a chance to spend some time with an important bit of text. I think it’s changed me and it’s challenged me. It’s been a privilege. The show is based on text that has changed our world and the history of the world and it goes way back but it’s still really relevant. I appreciate that,” he said. “Other than that it’s a ton of fun and to be able to spend the summer outside is great. I think any actor would be thrilled to get this job.”
The Canadian Badlands Passion Play runs July 11th to July 27th in Drumheller.
Evening performances which begin at 6 p.m. will take place July 11th, 12th, 18th, 25th and 26th. Afternoon performances which begin at 3 p.m. will run July 13th, 19th, 20th and 27th.
Tickets are available online or via phone at 1-888-823-2001, or at the door ($5 fee per ticket). Tickets range $43-$63 for adults, with special rates for youth and seniors.
For more information visit www.canadianpassionplay.com.