For the 19th year in a row, actors from all over southern Manitoba have partnered with Oak Valley Productions to perform the Manitoba Passion Play.

"It's just amazing after all these 19 years, how many people still come with such beautiful enthusiasm," Director Belita Sanders says. "It's overwhelming."

She notes many of actors return year after year, including Bill Thiessen as Jesus.

"He really takes the time to portray Jesus and live the part, and it's very touching in many moments," she says. "We get many comments on his performance... he just displays his love of the story."

The crucifixion scene has been especially moving in previous years because of the outdoor setting, Sanders explains. One year a strong gust of wind swept through the valley during the scene, other times the scene was accompanied by real thunder and lightning.

"We know this isn't our project, this is God's project and He's definitely having a hand in the artistic value."

Sanders explains the site and the script was updated in 2011. The updated script adds more to the life of Jesus, from the beginning of his life, and a few more miracles that had not been in the play before.

"We've heard many people that have come that don't know about the life of Jesus," says Sanders, "It wraps it all up in a nutshell... it just gives you a good understanding of what Jesus was trying to teach."

Even after nearly two decades, Sanders says excitement remains among the cast and crew, as well as the enthusiasm from supporters and the audience.

Opening weekend was held on July 7th and 8th, with more performances from July 13th to 15th, starting at 7:30 pm.

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