Mission Hill a Gospel experience
By Madeleine Marchildon
BELLEVUE, Sask. — In the beautiful setting of a former ski resort near Bellevue, Sask., Mission Hill Productions celebrated their 10th anniversary during the last two weeks of July as they presented Jesus Lives Forever, an evening play that depicts the lives of Mary and Jesus.
Producer and director Louise Branger said, “We have numerous families becoming involved, developing into a community. The crew have been so touched that they have been with the cast since the first year.” Four years ago, Branger combined the afternoon and evening productions, making one story on the lives of Mary and Jesus.
“Writing the script for Mary’s life wasn’t easy because there isn’t much about her in the Bible. Luckily, Suzanne Gaudet from St. Louis came to my rescue.” She continued, “The comments we get after the production are phenomenal.”
Sister Elizabeth Poilievre, FCJ, director of programs at the Renewal Centre in Prince George, BC, stated that the production is of outstanding quality. “I liked the setting, the sound system and the professional acting. I enjoyed the whole sweep of the story from Mary’s life to Jesus’ resurrection. For me, the highlight is when Jesus talks to us as a crowd. He paraphrases Gospel passages to make them more real to the scenes. The voice of God is well done and the message comes across clearly with great simplicity and compassion. Jesus is strong yet gentle. For me, the actor personifying Jesus was remarkable.”
“It’s my eighth year as Jesus,” commented Colin Branger, the director’s son. “Every year is a renewal of my faith. It’s like a retreat with Christ. It gives my family strength in our faith.”
The week before the production begins, the volunteers come to help with repairs and painting. All the actors take their roles seriously, improving the scenes from year to year, such as adding a donkey, horses and chariots. Kyle Gareau, a horseman, has been with the production from the beginning. He said, “Every year I hesitate to come here. It takes a lot of my time each summer. But once you arrive, nothing else matters. It’s like a second family and home every year.”
Another actor, Roger Hoey, his wife and three children have been in the production for the past six years. “Acting this story with my family and friends is like living heaven on earth. It is such an honour and blessing for us to relieve Mary’s and Jesus’ lives in the six presentations each summer. It sets the seed of faith for our children.”
Director Branger was raised in Bellevue. She had acting experience in Saskatoon and her parents also travelled to Drumheller, Alta., for the passion play there. She thought, “Why not start something here? My first challenge was to see if the prior ski resort of Minastinas was for sale from the rural municipality. We prayed and wrote the script and had Rev. Maurice Fiolleau, then pastor of Sacred Heart Cathedral in Prince Albert, approve it. During the summer of 2002, we had our first production. The Jesus Lives Forever production has brought a deep faith to the families involved and to the whole community. Mission Hill’s mission is to give families and friends a Gospel experience.”