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.
For 25 years, hundreds of thousands of people have visited our incredible amphitheatre to enjoy this award-winning portrayal of the life of Christ.
Live animals, original costumes, Roman armour, special effects – all in a spectacular natural setting.
The idea for staging The Canadian Badlands Passion Play started in the 1960s when the Honorable Gordon Taylor, 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.
In 1990, The Canadian Badlands Passion Play Society had its Charter meeting. Mr. Gordon Taylor was made Honorary Chairman. The site was chosen – one that formed a natural backdrop, very similar to the Israeli countryside that had properties of natural amphitheatre.
From 1990 through 1994, local community support and a growing volunteer base enabled the Society to target the summer of 1994 as the date for its first production. Hundreds of volunteers, thousands of dollars of generous gifts of materials, government grants and the theatrical expertise of the Rosebud School of the Arts all combined to make it happen. The 1,150-seat amphitheatre was completely sold out for all five shows.
Since that first opening night there have been many changes and additions to bring us to today. Not only does the play improve every year – so does the facilities. Hundreds of volunteers make it all happen – and volunteers remain the backbone of the organization.
In 1995 seating capacity doubled. A choir loft for 300 was also built into the hillside behind the audience.
In 1997 more seats were added and further enhancements were made to the main staging areas.
In 2001 the Jerusalem Wall was opened. The wall is similar in appearance to the wall of ancient Jerusalem and houses the production offices and audience services.
In 2006 the performance was entirely renewed with a new script by Royal Sproule and new music by Bill Hamm, both of Rosebud. Auditions were held province-wide to develop a broader base of acting talent. Musical instrumentation was added to the production. The play featured the inclusion of a narrator who helps to make the story more personal while “connecting the dots”, helping the audience understand the changes of locations and times.
In 2011 the John script was introduced and the Passion Play was featured in an award winning documentary.
In 2013 the Passion Play was awarded the Alto “Pride of Alberta” award from Alberta Tourism.
In 2014 the American Bus Association named the Canadian Badlands Passion Play one of the top 100 events in North America. The only other two Alberta events were the Calgary Stampede and Heritage Village.
In 2015 the Chambers of Conference of Alberta presented the Passion Play with the Award of Distinction in Arts and Culture.