After a few years away from the title role, Red Deer native Aaron Krogman has again landed the role of Jesus for this year’s epic production of the Canadian Badlands Passion Play near Drumheller.
Performances run at 6 p.m. on July 6th-7th; 13th-14th and 20th-21st.
Afternoon shows also run July 8th, 15th and 22nd at 4 p.m.
Krogram played the principle role for several years, leaving in 2015 for the west coast. “When the play closed in 2015, I moved to Vancouver with my wife to take on full-time studies on a Masters at Regent College.
“This last April, I graduated from that, and then kind of got right back into the Passion Play,” he explained during a recent chat. “It wasn’t the plan – it was a little bit unexpected, but a happy surprise for me.”
Each summer in the heart of the Canadian Badlands, a cast of hundreds tells an epic story of faith, hope and love on Canada’s largest outdoor stage, notes the web site.
“For 25 years, hundreds of thousands of people have visited our incredible amphitheatre to enjoy this award-winning portrayal of the life of Christ.”
Krogman said that there are a number of aspects that are very familiar to him with taking on the role this year.
“I love just going down and being on the site – just rehearsing – that’s one of my favourite things. I also love how it feels – first off, you are outside rehearsing.
“Some of those aspects are very familiar and are probably the most ‘rooting’ aspects of doing it again.”
The directing team is also the same as when he last took part in 2015, as is much of the creative team as well.
Having said that, there are significant changes this time around.
“It’s a totally different script – it’s based on the Gospel of Luke this time, and it’s kind of framed around the disciple Simon Peter. There are things about it that are totally different – just like the Gospels are a little different (from each other).”
There are also musical elements woven into the storyline this year as well.
“We don’t have a narrator this year, but the music and the singing really do the job of the narration,” he explained. “It’s very new – there’s an energy. Everybody feels that sense of excitement. We are taking a big step. It’s really exciting, and it almost feels like a better vehicle for storytelling.
“It’s very integrated in terms of music and text,” he said, adding that it’s not a full-fledged musical per se. “It’s not like a little bit of text and then a big musical number. It’s very woven together.”
The idea for staging the Canadian Badlands Passion Play started in the 1960s when Gordon Taylor, then minister of highways for Alberta, and a local MLA helped form a local society to produce a passion play in Drumheller.
In 1988, LaVerne Erickson, founder of Rosebud School of the Arts, formed a steering committee and gained the support of local community organizations to work toward bringing the dream to reality.
The first production ran in 1994 and in 1995 seating capacity doubled.
Meanwhile, Krogman fully caught the acting bug a bit later on, but the seed was planted in about Grade 8.
“I played the lead in a musical called King Josiah at Red Deer Christian School and it was a traumatic event in my mind,” he recalled with a laugh. A few years later during a family holiday in Saskatoon, he caught part of a Shakespeare festival and something was sparked. “It’s piqued my interest, but even then I didn’t really think theatre was for me,” he said. “I thought it was cool, though.”
In 2003, his family received tickets to a Rosebud Theatre Christmas production of Godspell.
“I went there, and I thought, oh man, I would love to do that.”
He eventually studied at Rosebud School of the Arts and it wasn’t long before he got involved with the Passion Play.
For Krogman, he hopes that audiences experience the same kind of thing he experiences during a given show.
”I think it’s something that is meant to make the imagination soar. That’s a little bit of what I’m trying to do as I do my job as an actor,” he explained of the story. “I hope there is something of a freshness and newness and a spark of life in this really rich text as we engage with it imaginatively on the audience’s behalf. And they can do that, too.
“There is something that is life-giving about that.”
Tickets are available online or via phone at 1-888-823-2001. For more, visit www.canadianpassionplay.com.