Red Deer actor Aaron Krogman is left with more unanswered questions than ever after playing Jesus for two seasons in the outdoor spectacle known as the Canadian Badlands Passion Play.
Krogman, who embarks on his third and final season as the Christian Son of God starting on Friday in Drumheller, has spent a total of 15 months rehearsing and performing a script taken from the Gospel of John.
And he still doesn’t understand why Jesus says some of the things ascribed to him.
For instance, after miraculously feeding 5,000 people with five loaves of bread, Jesus tells those around him: “You are happy to be eating bread. Don’t you understand it is my flesh?”
Krogman feels transubstantiation is a hard enough concept to understand at a time when Christians accept Christ’s divinity, never mind back when he was considered only a preacher. “He gets the kind of reaction you’d expect. People say, ‘Is this cannibalism?’ ‘Are you crazy?’ ”
Krogman, who was raised in a religious family, understudied the role of Jesus of Nazareth for two years before taking over the part in 2013. His final season runs to July 26, since Krogman is moving to Vancouver next month to study for a master’s degree in theology and the arts at Regent College.
He said it’s “bittersweet” to leave the three-hour passion play, since its cast and crew have become like a family over the last five years. (Krogman started playing blind Enosh in 2011.)
Stepping into the Saviour’s role has made him more open-minded about various interpretations of the Bible, added Krogman — especially after pouring over the text and conversing about it with various people, from the very devout to non-Christians crew members who are only working on the passion play because it’s a “great gig.”
“I probably have more questions now than I did at the beginning of it. …
“The Bible seems to be about letting go of preconceived notions for new ideas … there’s no easy answers, but that’s what I love about it. …”
While no one who’s seen Krogman’s passionate portrayal of Jesus has openly disagreed with his approach, he believes some people who think of Christ as a peace-lover surrounded by lambs and children might be surprised by how intensely he comes across in various scenes.
He believes this is inherent in the Gospel of John, which is “a bit aggressive” — although Jesus’s softer side is also shown at times.
Krogman feels one of his biggest challenges is making his acting proportional to the enormous outdoor amphitheatre where the passion play is staged. But he’s gotten used to making big gestures, and plans to make this season his best.
For the record, he has not, so far, experienced the bad luck that’s reportedly befallen some other actors who have taken on the role of Jesus. “I’ve had no more than the usual bad things happening, like stubbing my toe. …”
Krogman attended Christian schools in Red Deer and Lacombe and studied at the Rosebud School of the Arts. He’s played many roles over the years, including the part of Jason in the original play She Has a Name, by local playwright Andrew Kooman.
The actor is hoping to get more opportunities to do his own writing through his master’s program. “I’d like to transition more into more behind-the-scenes work.”
For more information on the Canadian Badlands Passion Play, visit canadianpassionplay.com.