Gateway Gazette

ZEKE the Temperamental ‘Jerusalem Donkey’ Upstaged by Gabriel the Understudy Donkey!

Zeke has been grazing on too much sweet grass lately and his feet are bothering him. 

Meanwhile, Gabriel, the female understudy donkey, replaced Zeke for the first three performances of the 2016 Canadian Badlands Passion Play. 

Donkey understudy, Gabriel (background), keeps a watchful eye on the feet of Zeke, the ‘temperamental ‘Jerusalem Donkey’ (foreground).
Donkey understudy, Gabriel (background), keeps a watchful eye on the feet of Zeke, the ‘temperamental ‘Jerusalem Donkey’ (foreground).

 

Gabriel in the 2011 Canadian Badlands Passion Play before her role was turned over to a more “Biblical” donkey. Photo Credit - Ron Nickel Photography
Gabriel in the 2011 Canadian Badlands Passion Play before her role was turned over to a more “Biblical” donkey. Photo Credit – Ron Nickel Photography

Drumheller, Alberta — The Canadian Badlands Passion Play still hopes to welcome Zeke the donkey back to the stage for their remaining six performances in Drumheller, despite the fact that Gabriel replaced Zeke for the opening weekend.

Zeke has to be careful about his diet as he has a diabetic condition.  If he eats too much of the surrounding sugar-rich grass, his feet will hurt to the point where he refuses to let anyone ride him. The crew tries its best to keep Zeke out of the grass, but he is such a well-loved cast member that people sometimes forget about his condition, and treat him with tufts of hand pulled grass.

Two years ago, his feet hurt to the point that he would not let Jesus get on his back for the Triumphal Entry scene, forcing Jesus to triumphantly jog onto the stage instead.

With that experience, the Production Team decided that an “Understudy Donkey” was a necessity for future performances. Enter Gabriel, a donkey of an entirely different colour – both literally and figuratively. ‘Gabby’ is larger (Jesus will need a step stool!) and lacks the distinctive marking of a cross on her back like Zeke and other “Christian Donkeys”.

Zeke, like his ancestors for the last 2,000 years, bears a fur cross over his shoulders. An ancient legend says that the original donkey that carried Jesus into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday also so desperately wanted to carry the cross for Jesus, that his desire was imprinted across his back and carried for all future generations. It was those markings that lost Gabriel her role as the lead donkey ‘actor’ in the 2011 Canadian Badlands Passion Play, the inaugural year of the script from the Gospel of John.

Gabriel was replaced by Zeke after Passion Play animal wranglers, Jody and Marllies Ohlhauser, purchased Zeke because of the distinct markings on his back.

But now Gabriel has quickly learned the positions for the new script from the Gospel of Luke. In fact, Gabriel has a leg up on Zeke as she doesn’t have all the memories of the last four years from the Gospel of John. Regardless of which donkey performs in the new play, audiences will enjoy this year’s performance of “The Greatest Story Ever Told!”

Pulling for Zeke to maintain his lead donkey role is his best animal friend Zar, the Arabian horse that appears in the play’s new Gospel of Luke script.  Donkeys and horses don’t always get along but when a separate pen was built for Zeke a few years back, he escaped one night and went over to join Zar in the corral. That friendship continues to this day.
Pulling for Zeke to maintain his lead donkey role is his best animal friend Zar, the Arabian horse that appears in the play’s new Gospel of Luke script.  Donkeys and horses don’t always get along but when a separate pen was built for Zeke a few years back, he escaped one night and went over to join Zar in the corral. That friendship continues to this day.

New script, new musical score & new lead director

2016 will be a ground breaking season for the Canadian Badlands Passion Play. The new script, an adaptation of the Gospel of Luke titled “Face to Face”, written by Alberta playwright, Barrett Hileman, will encompass the entire life of Christ, beginning at his birth. Alberta composer, Luke Ertman, has created the score for the new play. Brian Jensen, who played the role of the apostle John for the past five seasons, has become the lead director.

“With more than 200 actors on stage, supported by 40 backstage support staff, the Passion Play is a mammoth undertaking resulting in an incredible outdoor spectacle,” says Executive Director Vance Neudorf.

Since its first performance in 1994, www.canadianpassionplay.com  has gained provincial national and international reputation as one of North America’s top ‘must see’ cultural and tourism events. Located in Drumheller, Alberta approximately 90 miles northeast of Calgary, the annual ‘Theatre in the Badlands’ attraction provides its audiences with a dramatic retelling of the life of Jesus Christ. The production, supported by an additional 200 volunteers, is presented in a 30-acre natural badlands canyon bowl, the largest of its kind in Canada, whose stark and dramatic geographical surroundings mirror those of ancient Israel.

2016 Performances run until July 24

Evening Performances (6:00 PM)

July 15, 22, and 23 

Afternoon Performances (4:00 PM)

July  16, 17, and 24

For more information, visit www.canadianpassionplay.com or call 1-403-823-2001.

Facebook: facebook.com/BadlandsPassionPlay/?fref=ts

Twitter: @CBPassionPlay

All Photo Credits: Ron Nickel

The Canadian Badlands Passion Play – Celebrating its 23rd season in 2016

Since its first performance in 1994, The Canadian Badlands Passion Play has gained a provincial, national and international reputation as one of North America’s top ‘must see’ cultural and tourism events. Located near Drumheller, Alberta approximately 90 miles northeast of Calgary, the annual ‘Theatre in the Badlands’ attraction provides its audiences with a dramatic retelling of the life of Jesus Christ. The 200+ performer play is supported by 200 additional volunteers and is presented in a 30-acre natural badlands canyon bowl whose stark and dramatic geographical surroundings mirror those of ancient Israel. In 2016, The Canadian Badlands Passion Play will have nine performances July 8-24. www.canadianpassionplay.com 1-888-823-2001. @CBPassionPlay  Like us on Facebook

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