Sunday, July 22, 2018

Sedimentation and Dramatization

The cough I had woken up with on Friday morning had by Sunday bloomed into a full-blown and miserable snotty head cold. The original itinerary had been to take it easy after the world cup, perhaps do a little sightseeing, but the day before, a chance brochure encounter had reminded us that the Canadian Badlands Passion Play was being staged, something we had talked about attending for years. So a restful day in the shade was simply not in the cards.

In the afternoon, we took a brief road trip north of town to Horsethief Canyon. This gave us all a chance to sightsee and Glory a chance to indulge herself with her proper camera.

Legend has it that purloiners of ill-gotten equines would elude pursuit down in this maze-like arroyo, only to emerge with different brands much further up the Red Deer river.

It is astonishing to reminded that such fabulous scenery is only a three-hour drive away, even though some of the topography looks like it wouldn't be out of place on either the surface of Mars or the cinematic Old West. Even more amazing is the fact that you could be driving through farmland less than a kilometer away and have absolutely no clue this amazing vista is as close as it is.

We didn't stay too long in th 35 degree heat, so after fortifying ourselves with some small pizzas and milkshakes at Bernie and the Boys Bistro, we made our way to the parking lot of the Badlands Passion Play.

Said play has been taking place every summer at the Badlands Amphitheatre, an old-style naturally formed amphitheatre with outstanding acoustics, for 25 years now. The venue itself is amazing to behold, with seating for over 2,000 and an impressive array of biblically themed structures.

There were at least 60 people in the cast, often all on stage at one time, and only the principles were miked but you could still clearly hear the words the extras were murmuring in the crowd scenes (which I am sure required tremendous discipline!). 

The scale of the amphitheatre also made it possible to add live animals, and having a horse-drawn Roman chariot go all the way from stage left to stage right was pretty thrilling. The Roman armour and vestments of the Pharisees were splendid examples of costumery.

Their crucifixion scene was fairly harrowing, and involved hoisting the crossbar into position with the lead actor attached, still miked.

As a musical that was trying very hard not to be Jesus Christ Superstar, the play was very well done, taking a Simon-centric approach to the story. Truth be told, with my eyes watering and nose running throughout, I spent a lot of the time listening with my eyes closed, with the hood of my sweater up over my hat to protect my neck from the sun, as it was still very hot when the show got underway at 4:00. Still, I found it to be a moving and compelling rendition of the Gospel story.

Truth be told though, anyone who appreciates an unusual venue or has any interest in theatrical production owes it to themselves to check out the Badlands Passion Play at some point. The scope, scale, and technical accomplishments of such a major production, away from a major population center, is as miraculous as the story it portrays.

On the other hand, they are staging Carmen at the same venue in August, and Corb Lund and Ian Tyson after that, so the idea of returning to see a more secular event has some appeal as well!

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