Passion Play

Published Friday, April 12, 2013

Red Deer actor to take on role of Jesus

20th anniversary of the Canadian Badlands Passion Play



CALGARY — This year’s Canadian Badlands Passion Play in Drumheller will have a new person in the role of Jesus.

Red Deer actor and storyteller Aaron Krogman takes over for Steve Waldschmidt.

“Since the 2008 season, Steve Waldschmidt has been performing the lead role of Jesus,” says Vance Neudorf, executive director of the 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.”

Krogman is a veteran Rosebud Theatre and Burned Thicket Theatre actor, singer and musician.

“To play such an iconic figure as Jesus is by far among the biggest challenges I have faced as an actor and I’m looking forward to bringing everything I have to this pivotal role,” he says.

Neudorf says there will be nine performances this year — the most they have ever done. It includes six evening performances and three afternoon shows.

The play has more than 200 actors on stage with 40 backstage support staff for the outdoor spectacle.

The nine performances will take place July 10-21. Evening performances beginning at 6 p.m. will be Wednesday July 10; Thursday July 11; Friday July 12, Saturday July 13; Thursday July 18, and Friday July 19.

Afternoon performances beginning at 3 p.m. will be Sunday July 14; Saturday July 20 and Sunday July 21.

“Whatever your worldview, you should come see the Passion Play, because it’s going to be very interesting regardless,” says Krogman. “I cannot imagine anyone sitting through the play and wishing they hadn’t. I absolutely cannot. If you haven’t seen it, you cannot prepare for a spectacle like it. If you have seen it, you know this is true, and you’ll want to see what new discoveries have been made.

“Taking over the role of Jesus is sobering, and such a privilege. I hope to tell the truth. I have a desire to make something of my personal experience of Jesus seen. I imagine him watching the play, and then pulling me aside after, saying, ‘Hmmm. That’s how you see me? Okay. I guess that’s fine. Yeah, you did well enough.’ That is my hope.”

He says the character and person of Jesus have been alive in the imaginations and hearts of most people for most of their lives, for him as well.

“I have some preconceived notions about how Jesus is. But my job is to apply my craft to the character in the script, like any other actor on any stage,” says Krogman. “I don’t know what it is to be God, but I do know what it is to be a human being, and that part of Jesus I can connect to as an actor, and discover moment to moment as the story lives on the stage.

“In a run of the play I expect to run and walk several kilometres, and we rehearse in the hot sun for a lot of hours. I’ll drink lots of water and stretch a lot. I’ll read the script a lot. More than I usually would. I have understudied for the last two years, so I know it well already. It’s a really rich text, and familiar text, but I’d like to rediscover it. I’d like to read it enough to be blown away by it again.”

Founder LaVerne Erickson first proposed the idea of the play in 1988, but it wasn’t until the summer of 1994 that the first play was performed.

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.

The passion play includes live animals and 400 volunteers.

It is presented in a 30-acre natural badlands canyon bowl whose stark and dramatic geographical surroundings mirror those of ancient Israel.

For more information, visit or call 1-888-823-2001.