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THE PASSION, Holy Cross Parish Church, Wikwemikong

On Good Friday we performed our annual interpretation of The Passion of Jesus Christ for the Holy Cross Parish of Wikwemikong. This parish was established by the Jesuits over 165 years ago, and continues to play an important role in the spiritual life of the community.

Debajehmujig first established a relationship with the Holy Cross Parish Council in 1994 when an understanding was stuck for the use of the Holy Cross Ruins as a venue for the summer production of The Manitoulin Incident written by Alanis King. The site was ideal for its historic relevance to the show, but it was also simply an ideal performance site.

Located on the top of a hill, next to the historic church the impressive stone walls are but a suggestion of what might have been, and what could be. Open to the sky and the elements, the windows are empty sockets in the stone walls creating silhouettes as the sun sets. We have continued to perform in the Ruins every summer since, and in exchange for the venue rental fee, we perform The Passion for the parish community in the Holy Cross Mission Church, during the Good Friday service.

Across the Island in the community of Mindemoya, they have taken the concept further with an annual multi-denominational family-oriented outdoor presentation of the Christmas story called A Journey to Bethlehem. This community based event draws busloads of people from off the Island who come to share this experience during the first week of December. For more information search the title accompanied by the name Manitoulin Island.

The experience of the company of artists in preparing for this important event fortunately takes place in the Debajehmujig Creation Centre and not within the walls of the church. Everyone is aware of the date and time of the performance – it never changes. Everyone knows the story and the script – it never changes. But as the date on the calendar looms ever closer, the anxiety continues to rise until finally, someone asks the inevitable question – Who is going to play Jesus this year? (No one is safe, as this project reaches beyond the usual stage performers to resource it.) If you know the people in our company, you know how difficult a decision this is. And you also know that the community is anxiously waiting for this to be revealed.

 Well this year the solution slowly grew obvious as staff member Justin Deforge –tucked away in the media lab on the second floor – slowly grew a beard. Justin is charge of our website and social media – and presumably thought he was safe from consideration for the role, or he would have shaved. But from the point of view of the other animators – Justin is ­also­ a performer, as he is a member of the Debaj House Band, so it wasn’t really that a far a stretch to the role of Jesus!

Justin’s performance was warmly received by our company and the community. And it is interesting to realize that there are community members who are being introduced to the arts through their religious practice and celebrations. Traditionally, these were, and are, connected.