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Nestled in the canyons of the Alberta Badlands is a beautiful natural amphitheater, home to the Canadian Badlands Passion Play, one of Alberta’s top cultural attractions. With seating for 2,500 and remarkable similarities to the ancient Holy Land, it’s the perfect spot for hundreds of volunteers and workers to re-enact the dramatic story of Christ each summer.

Daniel VanHeyst, associate professor of art and drama at The King’s University College, Edmonton, is one of the founding members of the Passion Play Society. A member of West End Christian Reformed Church in Edmonton, VanHeyst has been the production designer for the show for 12 years, living for several weeks each summer in Drumheller.

Choir members come from all over Alberta. They rehearse in their own towns and cities, then gather together weekly at First CRC, Lethbridge, the month before the production starts in July.

VanHeyst’s daughter Naomi plays different roles, her favorite being a Roman soldier. “Even in the broiling heat, with the itch of my woolen tunic, the stench of the animals, or the dust in my hair, I’ve felt closer to God then I’ve ever felt,” she says. “There are times when I can close my eyes and make myself believe I am in Galilee 2,000 years ago.”

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