Zeke the tem­per­a­men­tal don­key re­turns to the Pas­sion Play

The Drumheller Mail - - SPORTS - Sub­mit­ted The Drumheller Mail sub­mit­ted

The Cana­dian Bad­lands Pas­sion Play is pleased to wel­come Zeke the don­key back to the stage for nine per­for­mances from July 8-24 in Drumheller.

Over the past 23 years, the Pas­sion Play has seen eight dif­fer­ent ac­tors play the role of Je­sus, but dur­ing that same time only three don­keys have taken on the role of car­ry­ing Je­sus into Jerusalem dur­ing his tri­umphant en­try. Since 2012, that don­key has been Ezekiel – af­fec­tion­ately known as “Zeke,” by his fel­low ac­tors.

Zeke is ac­tu­ally a Nu­bian burro, a breed known as “Jerusalem Don­keys” or “Chris­tian Don­keys” due to the dis­tinct mark­ings on their back.

Zeke, like his an­ces­tors for the last 6,000 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 wanted des­per­ately to carry the cross for Je­sus, and that de­sire was im­printed across his back and car­ried for all fu­ture gen­er­a­tions.

At times, Zeke can be a bit of a prima donna and has been re­luc­tant to walk through any pud­dles on stage. He also has to be care­ful with his diet. He has a di­a­betic con­di­tion and if he eats too much of the sug­ar­rich grass on stage, his feet will hurt to the point where he will refuse to let any­one ride him.

Last year, dur­ing one per­for­mance, the ac­tor play­ing Je­sus had to run by him­self onto the stage dur­ing the tri­umphant en­try as Zeke “put his foot down” and would not go on­stage for that show.

Like most ac­tors, Zeke loves at­ten­tion from the au­di­ence and from those around him. If you pass by his cor­ral he will bray to get your at­ten­tion, and will keep bray­ing un­til you come over for a visit.

He is also pro­tec­tive of his an­i­mal co-stars, and will stand next to the sheep pen all night if there are coy­otes in the area.

His best friend is 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.

Af­ter bor­row­ing Zeke for his first few sea­sons at the Pas­sion Play, the play’s an­i­mal wran­gler, Mar­lies Ohlhauser, was so taken with the gre­gar­i­ous don­key, that she pur­chased him so Zeke and Zar could stay to­gether through­out the off-sea­son. Her three-year-old daugh­ter, Mon­roe (who also acts in the Pas­sion Play each year), en­joys rid­ing Zeke on trail rides as this unique don­key is also ca­pa­ble of wear­ing a har­ness, sad­dle, and bri­dle.

When she was just learn­ing to talk, Mon­roe would say a sim­ple prayer each night, “Thank Je­sus for don­key.” At the Pas­sion Play we are also grate­ful for Zeke and all the other an­i­mals that join us each year as we present “The Great­est Story Ever Told”.

Zeke the don­key re­turns for an­other year of the Cana­dian Bad­lands Pas­sion Play, cast in the all im­por­tant role of car­ry­ing Je­sus into Jerusalem.

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