Plans are taking shape for the popular Canadian Badlands Passion Play this July, and a Red Deer actor will be taking the starring role.
“Since the 2008 season, Steve Waldschmidt has been performing the lead role of Jesus,” explains Vance Neudorf, executive director of The Canadian Badlands Passion Play.
“This winter, the Waldschmidt family moved to Saskatoon and will be greatly missed both on and off the stage. Taking over this lead role will be Red Deer actor Aaron Krogman who has played Enosh (the man born blind) and has also been Waldschmidt’s understudy for the role of Jesus for the past two seasons.
“We are very excited about the new dynamic that Aaron will bring to the stage.”
For veteran Rosebud Theatre and Burnt Thicket Theatre actor, singer and musician Krogman, playing the role of Jesus is the highlight of his blossoming acting career.
“The role of Jesus is so iconic, that the challenge becomes to treat the role like a role, as a character with words on a page,” says Krogman. “I have to find out who he is based on what is written. I hope to bring some wonder, some immediacy.
“Sometimes the Jesus I imagine seems to know it all beforehand. I hope to have some discovery of what to say and do that comes out of what is happening with the actors and the crowd.”
It’s certainly been a creatively-rich experience, albeit not without its own unique challenges.
“The outdoors, the heat, the rain, the long days provide some of the challenges of the production, but sometimes it’s so lovely out it feels like a day at the beach,” he explains. “The role of Jesus is also quite an athletic part, covering several kilometres in a run of the play.
“I think the joy of the production lies in being part of something bigger than yourself. It’s a huge effort from a huge amount of people, who all care about the show. We are all working toward the same thing: an experience which captures the imagination of the audience, and takes them back in time and across the world to a different land and it’s lovely to take part in.”
Krogman had an early start to acting – and has relished every role he’s landed over the years as his career has unfolded.
“I wanted to act initially because I loved story, and I wanted to be a part of it in some form,” he explains. “My parents always encouraged me artistically, first musically, but I was a shy kid. I needed quite a bit of prodding to make it on the stage.
“I vowed I’d never act again after my voice cracked embarrassingly in a first ever performance of a play in Grade 8. It wasn’t until after high school that my dad told me, of all the things I could be doing, he could see me on stage. “His daydream image of me acting, an affirmation of something I’d wanted but was too scared to try, enabled me to take the first step. And I still love story.”
Nine performances of the critically-acclaimed production are slated for July 10-21. Evening show times are 6 p.m. and there are also some afternoon performances which begin at 3 p.m.
“We will have nine performances in 2013 – the most we have ever done,” said Neudorf. “That includes six evening performances and three afternoon shows. With over 200 actors on stage supported by 40 backstage support staff the Passion Play is a mammoth undertaking resulting in an incredible outdoor spectacle.”
2013 marks the 20th season of The Canadian Badlands Passion Play – the brainchild of founder LaVerne Erickson who first proposed the idea of the play in 1988.
It wasn’t until the summer of 1994 that the first play was performed. And from the very beginning Erickson believed that the play would grow and expand.
Over the years, large buildings have been added and the amphitheatre has grown to where it now seats over 2,700 people. Since 2005, annual attendance has skyrocketed from 6,700 to more than 14,000 in 2012.
Neudorf predicts this year’s attendance will hit the 20,000 mark.
As for Krogman, he anticipates a powerful impact on audiences, enhanced by the authentic appearance of the setting as well.
“When people leave, I hope they’ll be chatting about seeing an amphitheatre put to use in such an amazing way, but also discussing what they’ve seen fresh in an overly familiar story.”
For more details, including ticket information, check out www.canadianpassionplay.com or call 1-888-823-2001.