Manitoba’s Passion Play, which stages Jesus’ life, is back for its 24th year.  

Curtis Shupenia has been a part of the play for 19 of those years; he began in the role of Apostle John, an experience that he calls “wonderful.” Since then, he has played different characters. 

The play, which has additional performances this weekend, traverses heart-wrenching low points of Jesus’ life before arriving at what Shupenia calls a “joyous end.” 

“The story has been built around scripture, of course, and we try to stay true to the scripture,” says Shupenia. “Even as you're watching the play and listening, if you're familiar with the scriptures, you'll recognize that what you're seeing in front of you is what you've read.” 

 

The overarching message of the play extends beyond the stage.  

“What it comes down to is getting a sense of who Jesus was/is, his message, [and] the reason he came,” says Shupenia.  

The atmosphere of Manitoba’s Passion Play is enhanced by its setting — an open-air theatre surrounded by natural landscape. 

“If you've never attended, what you'll experience is, first of all, a beautiful drive out to the Oak Valley Passion Play site just east of La Rivière,” says Shupenia. “As you're driving down, you're going to come into the valley. The scenery is beautiful.” 

Shupenia says that attendees will find the site of the play well organized once they arrive.  

“There's a parking area for everyone. There’s security,” says Shupenia. “When it comes time . . . to come down to the actual site of the amphitheater, you can . . . load your chairs up onto a pickup truck and we've got these wonderful [open air] shuttles . . . that take you down to the actual site. For some people, that in itself is just a wonderful experience.” 

For those who are interested in using Manitoba’s Passion Play to connect with nature further, Shupenia says that there is also a meditation trail nearby. The trail features different stations that represent the events before Jesus’ death, so called his “passion.” 

“At each station one can meditate on what's happening at that moment, and there's prayer help there as well. Some people really appreciate that,” says Shupenia. “[The meditation trail] is kind of in the bush, but that's a part of what makes it somewhat meditative.” 

Another feature of the play that links itself to nature is its cast, which features some four-legged and winged members. 

“There is a donkey that we have, our beloved Zipper . . . . A lot of people just get a kick out of the fact that that these animals are there,” says Shupenia. “There are some sheep or lambs . . . [and] birds play an important part.” 

Shupenia says that the animals do not always react predictably during the performance — but that’s live theatre.

Though it’s difficult to choose a favourite facet of the production, Shupenia notes that, in addition to its unique intersection of theatre and nature, the play also has a strong community aspect. Everyone from “little kids to grandmas and grandpas” is involved in the play, says Shupenia.  

“I'm not sure if everyone realizes this, but everyone involved is volunteer. This is not something we're coming to do because we need to pay a bill. This is something we're doing because it means something to us.”  

The outdoor theatre is located 1km east of La Rivière on Highway #3. For those coming from the east, the Oak Valley entrance is on the right (north). Shupenia suggests that audience members bring a comfortable lawn chair or blanket to spread in the viewing area for the play.  

“We want everyone to be comfortable,” says Shupenia.

Anyone who wishes to attend the play but is unsure about transportation or has accessibility needs or concerns is invited call 888-264-2038 to make arrangements for specialty transportation down to the amphitheater or to inquire about scheduled bus transportation. Those that are arranging a bus trip to the site are also encouraged to call so that administration can accommodate bus arrivals.  

For those who plan to drive out themselves, Shupenia suggests spending the day in the area.  

“Go through the neighbouring towns, or take a little drive through La Rivière,” says Shupenia. “At the latter part of your day, come to [the play], and . . . make an outing of it.”  

To purchase advanced tickets, visit the website of Manitoba’s Passion Play here.