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Canadian Badlands Passion Play in Drumheller

Disclaimer: This post is about seeing the Canadian Badlands Passion Play in Drumheller,. A Passion Play is the Biblical story of Jesus Christ, and as such holds significance for many people. I am refer to characters and events in this post within the context of a theatrical performance. This is not an endorsement of any religious or non-religious organisation.

My Birthday Trip to Drumheller

For my 31st birthday wanted to go somewhere. I only had a few days off, and a small budget. Since I love theater I wanted to go somewhere where I could indulge in some of my favourite activities.
 
For my birthday I went to Drumheller. This is small town in the Alberta Badlands. Drumheller is famous for its fossil discoveries and geological treasures than theater. I had visited Drumheller before, but not for long. This time I wanted to spend a couple of night in the region and get a better feel of what to do in the region.

Enter the Canadian Badlands Passion Play

The Canadian Badlands Passion Play runs outside of Drumheller every summer. It’s the Biblical story of Jesus (the resurrection story). I know this show won’t appeal to everyone. It was something I wanted to see, for the theatrical experience of the event. Passion Plays happen all over the world, usually around Easter. This Passion Play happens outside against the backdrop of geological rocks and hoodoos. This makes it reminiscent (or what many people would imagine) of ancient Israel, where the play is set. Of course is it actually the same? I don’t know – I haven’t been to Israel yet.
 
I have been to Drumheller and it’s a cool place. The natural setting of the Passion Play is great.

Outside Performances

You’ll notice that I wrote most Passion Plays are usually held around Easter. The one in Drumheller is in July. Why? Holding an outdoor Passion Play during Spring involves fickle weather. While weather in July isn’t always perfect, it’s usually pretty close.

Canadian Badlands Passion Play

The main stage is to the left of this picture. Everything in the setting of the background isintegrated into the show. I lucked out with some awesome weather at the performance I went to.

When I got my ticket I got a pamphlet with some tips on what to bring. I brought along

  • Scarf/Wrap
  • Rain Poncho. Note that umbrellas aren’t allowed because they block the view of people behind you.
  • Sunscreen
  • Bugspray
  • Baseball Hat
  • Water bottle
I saw an evening performance (began at 6pm) and it was nice out. When the sun started going down my wrap came in handy. The sunscreen and hat were very useful. You don’t want a sunburn. It didn’t rain so I didn’t need the poncho, but I’d bring it in case. I didn’t need the bug spray (which is pretty rare in the summer, but no complaints from me). Since the sun is behind the audience in the evening show I didn’t need sunglasses. For a matinee performance, when the sun is higher in the sky I’d definitely wear sunglasses.

The Venue

The venue is outside, but it is at an amphitheatre, which is also used for other events in the summer. It’s a cool venue. There is a stage, but the set goes out way beyond this. The seats are wooden benches, but I was pretty surprised at how nice they were. These are not the most comfortable seats ever, but they’re not bad. If you wanted to you could buy seat cushions to sit on.. Tickets here have assigned seating. I’m tall and I often find my knees will cramp up because of a lack of leg room between rows, but that wasn’t an issue here.

Canadian Badlands Passion Play

This is a sideview of the main stage and some of the seating of The Canadian Badlands Passion Play. The amphitheater here is a permanent theatre used for different performance events throughout the summer.

The Story

This was the Easter story of Jesus’s crucifixion death and resurrection. This story is very important to some people, but I’m not going to summarise everything here. What’s interesting to know is that they do a new script every year. How they tell the story varies each year, even though the main story is the same. When I went they used the Gospel of John for their source material
 
This is a play, but there is music and some singing for a few scenes. This version had a narrator, which was an interesting choice. I did feel like in some scenes the narrator wasn’t needed . The show was close to 3 hours with the intermission. I thought the play was engaging and easy to follow, even for those who wouldn’t be familiar with the story.

The Setting

This play is set against the ancient geological rocks of the Canadian Badlands. This makes seeing this show a unique experience. Since this is an outdoor show weather changes, like thunder and sudden rain storms, can occur. This could add an interesting element to the show. As mentioned before the weather was beautiful and calm during my performance. While there is a main stage used for a lot of the show, it’s not the only thing to focus on. During several parts the performers would run up from behind the hills. At one point I thought “damn these actors run a lot in this show.” I won’t spoil anything, but the setting definitely helped add a unique impact to the finale.

Intermission at the Canadian Badlands Passion Play in Drumheller, Alberta.

Intermission at the Canadian Badlands Passion Play. The natural lighting really added to the show.

The People Involved

The scope of this play is pretty huge. There are a few professional actors in the show, but most are volunteers. Some are students who are part of the Canadian Badlands Summer School program. There are over 170 people in the show (including understudies and musicians). There are also many people in behind the scenes as well. A few animals (a couple of horses, and some donkeys) are in the show too. There are also hundreds of donors and volunteers who help to make this show possible. The scope of the Canadian Badlands Passion Play experience is pretty amazing.

The Odd

The gift store aspect was odd. Look I’ve been to shows before and I’m familiar with merchandising. I did know that there was a gift store at The Passion Play. Some of it was local artisan items. There was also was official Canadian Badlands Passion Play merchandise. It was a little strange (to me) to see that I could buy a Jesus bobblehead to commemorate my experience. It’s like having a gift store in a church. I know it happens (I’ve seen before), but it’s still kind of weird to me.

What was even weirder was the photo ops with the actors. During intermission actors, playing Roman soldiers, stood outside the main stage. I can’t tell you how many people in the audience went up to take photos standing next to the actors. Same thing happened after the show (lots of people wanted pictures with Jesus). This seemed weird to me because these people are only actors. I’m all for going up to performers after a show and telling them that you enjoyed the experience. Queuing to get a selfie with an actor playing Jesus seems so weird to me. To each his/her own though.

Final Thoughts

Christians or anyone with interest in the Biblical story of Jesus will enjoy this event. The Canadian Badlands Passion Play is worth checking out for people who love theatre in a unique setting.

Things You Should Know

The Canadian Badlands Passion Play begins performances in July. The show runs on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. Ticket and show information is here. Ticket prices range from $29 (for youths) up to $64 for adults. The venue is at 605 17 Street in Drumheller, Alberta. Drumheller is a small town, but this venue is a little bit outside of town. As there isn’t public transit here you’ll want to have a vehicle or call a local taxi service to get here. Give yourself plenty of time for parking.
The Canadian Badlands Passion Play provided me with a complimentary ticket. I am very appreciative they were able to offer their support. All opinions in this post are my own.
This isn’t the only place to see great theatre in the Albertan Badlands. Nearby Rosebud, Alberta has a great professional theatre program with shows (in an indoor venue) year round. You can read about my experience in Rosebud.
While I was in Drumheller I stayed at the Heartwood Inn and Spa. This locally run bed and breakfast offers a comfortable luxury stay in Drumheller. While there are spa treatments available here I wasn’t able to make us of any (unfortunately). I can vouch for the delicious waffle breakfast and the owners were lovely. I was provided a complimentary stay with in collaboration with Travel Alberta. All opinions are my own.

Have you been to Drumheller? Would you see the Canadian Badlands Passion Play?


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6 Responses to Canadian Badlands Passion Play in Drumheller

  1. Tami September 12, 2015 at 11:38 AM #

    I’d never heard of this passion play before. Sounds like an amazing experience — wish I could go!

    • Alouise October 14, 2015 at 8:41 PM #

      The Canadian Badlands Passion Play is a very cool and fantastic experience. Definitely recommend going if you ever get a chance.

  2. Bryna September 15, 2015 at 7:42 AM #

    I love Drumheller! I’ve visited it many times but I’ve never been to the Passion Play. I laughed at the part about the Jesus bobblehead at the gift store…!

    • Alouise October 14, 2015 at 8:42 PM #

      The merchandising was a little weird, but I’ve been to churches with gift stores so I guess anything goes. Thanks for the comment.

  3. Mary @ Green Global Travel September 29, 2015 at 2:47 PM #

    Cool post. This looks like a beautiful and unique setting for any kind of outdoor performance. Thanks for the review!

    • Alouise October 14, 2015 at 8:43 PM #

      Hi Mary. Yes the setting was fantastic for the play, but I’d definitely love to come back here and see another performance like the Shakespeare in the Badlands show or a concert. Thanks for the comment.

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