Passion Play ends, concert venue is born

For 70 years, the outdoor amphitheater at Spearfish was home to the Black Hills Passion Play. The play used an enormous outdoor stage to tell the story of the final seven days in Jesus’ life. In 2008, the Passion Play shut down.

Though the end of the Passion Play was sad for the thousands who had enjoyed it over the years, there is new hope for the facility where the play was performed. The amphitheater has been converted to a performing arts theater, and the first event in the ampitheater, now called the "Black Hills Amp," will be a concert by country singer Randy Travis on June 19.

The "Amp" adds a unique, new facet to South Dakota’s summer concert scene, and the facility is bound to aid the growth of Spearfish. The beautiful city, situated in the northern Black Hills, already benefits from Spearfish Canyon, the High Plains Western Heritage Center, the D.C. Booth Historic National Fish Hatchery, the Spearfish Arts Center and numerous other nearby attractions. If you’re planning a vacation to the Black Hills and don’t mind staying about 65 miles away from Mount Rushmore, Spearfish can serve as a fantastic base of operations.

About Author

Seth Tupper

Seth Tupper was born and raised in South Dakota and earned a bachelor's degree in journalism from South Dakota State University in 2001. After college, he worked at a newspaper in Minnesota and then returned to South Dakota in 2003 to join the staff of The Daily Republic in Mitchell, where he is currently the publisher. Seth has won numerous awards for his writing, including the 2007 Outstanding Young Journalist award in the daily newspapers category of the South Dakota Newspaper Association's Better Newspapers Contest. Seth's day-job and freelance work have granted him opportunities to meet hundreds of South Dakotans and travel across much of the state. He also spends a lot of his free time exploring South Dakota's state and national parks, hiking trails and kayak-friendly rivers.


  1. Elizabeth
    Elizabeth 21 June, 2011, 18:24

    I don’t understand why the Pasion Play would be discontinued just to provide a new place for concerts. There are plenty of places for concerts, however the Passion Play was a unique show in South Dakota, unlike many of the concerts that will replace it.

    Reply this comment
  2. Lauri
    Lauri 21 June, 2011, 18:24

    Our family is planning a reunion in the Black Hills where I grew up on ranch near Mount Rushmore five decades ago. How VERY disappointing for me, as well as our Humanities professor son, to find that the Passion Play I saw as a girl has been discontinued. It was a unique, meaningful destination that I am sure is sorely missed.

    Reply this comment
  3. Zita Chambers
    Zita Chambers 21 June, 2011, 18:25

    This Very Awe-some, unique, and special event was Dis-continued!!
    Amazing. Due to Lack of Funding???
    If Not….someone wanted to eliminate it.
    When something that special and beloved is removed.
    There is No Valuable reason.
    May it be brought back somehow, by
    popluar request! 🙂

    Reply this comment
  4. Steven Mishler
    Steven Mishler 21 June, 2011, 18:25

    Saw this as a young person and what a impression this made on me and my life. I was bringing 6 couples to the area this july and one thing I said we had to do was see this play, What a disapointment to find out it is gone. We will still come but will feel like a big part is missing.

    Reply this comment
  5. Bill Hofford
    Bill Hofford 21 June, 2011, 18:26

    My Great Grandmother was the first white woman born in the Dakota’s and we had a family reunion there in 1964. When I returned in 1994 I saw the play and wanted to take my family to see it again. So disappointed we won’t be able to see this.

    Reply this comment
  6. Charles
    Charles 21 June, 2011, 18:26

    We and two other couiples are planning on visiting the Black Hills and surrounding area and have heard fantastic things about the Passion Play from others who have seen it. Disappointing to say the least that it’s not being presented. Darn it!

    Reply this comment
  7. Gwen
    Gwen 21 June, 2011, 18:26

    I saw the Passion Play four times while growing up in central South Dakota. I am returning to the Hills after more than 50 years with two friends this summer and was so excited to share this wonderful experience with them. Now I discover that it no longer exists. What a huge disappointment for all of us.

    Reply this comment
  8. Judith Weidner
    Judith Weidner 9 August, 2011, 01:06

    The Passion Play has been playing to sold out audiences from it’s beginning. What a disappointment to find it’s no longer playing! If I wanted to see top name intertainment I could see that anywhere. This play was special and needs to be reinstated. Thank you.

    Reply this comment
  9. Gordon
    Gordon 24 December, 2011, 19:57

    I seen this wonderful preformance a couple of times when I was child. Very inspiring. Very sad to hear that it had closed down. Was looking forward to having my children and grandchildren attend.
    Does anyone know how I could purchase a video of the proformance?

    Reply this comment
  10. Cathy
    Cathy 22 February, 2012, 20:56

    WoW very disappointed; wanted to take my grandkids to see the great outdoor performance. needless to say we wont be visiting spearfish anymore. was a beautiful area and great play. sad

    Reply this comment
  11. Vance
    Vance 28 March, 2012, 01:41

    We were sad to see one of the great Passion Plays come to an end.
    Another great passion play is just across the border in Canada. The Canadian Badlands Passion Play.

    Reply this comment
  12. Rebecca
    Rebecca 24 April, 2012, 13:42

    How disappointing! It was so powerful and amazing! Our children are the right age to take this trip and we were looking forward to going ‘out West’ and seeing the many sights including the Passion Play. I guess we will skip Spearfish. Thanks for the info on Canada’s Passion Play – maybe we will get passports and head that direction instead.

    Reply this comment
  13. CLAY
    CLAY 21 May, 2012, 19:56

    How sad, was going to take my daughter and Grandkids to see the wounderful play, not a play but a gget story, how sad, why would something so great be cancelled

    Reply this comment
  14. Lorna
    Lorna 24 May, 2012, 01:06

    How sad that the passion play won’t be done anymore. I saw it as a young teen and will never forget it. As the stage went dark when Jesus died there was a loud crack of real thunder it was very moving.

    Reply this comment
    • jamie
      jamie 6 April, 2015, 15:24

      i had a similar experience, we were watching it and a dark cloud came up to the area, split , went around the area and gathered on the other side, someone wanted us to see the entire play!!!

      Reply this comment
  15. Rich
    Rich 17 June, 2012, 17:37

    We just returned from the Black Hills after a great vacation. We visited Spearfish just to see the Passion Play. Now it’w gone! Oh yes, there will be concerts in it’s place, but I hope they won’t be those hard rock concerts involving sex and obscenity. To replay the Passion Play with that kind of junk would be a travesty!

    Reply this comment
  16. Michelle
    Michelle 4 August, 2012, 19:27

    Not sure what made me google this today, but so disappointing to learn after the fact. Back in the mid-70’s, my family & I were extras for the Passion Play on a couple of different occasions. At the time I was too young & short to be included in the actual crucifixion scene. I would watch from a distance from one of the buildings behind the set. I always thought that I’d like to go back & see if they’d let me be an extra again so I could finally be a part of what I missed out on. It’s sad knowing that now I’ll never get that chance. I hope they bring it back someday.

    Reply this comment
  17. Sonia
    Sonia 9 August, 2012, 21:24

    I also am very disappointed to learn that the passion play Is no longer being shown. I was hoping to take my children to it next week.

    Reply this comment
  18. Denny
    Denny 18 February, 2013, 06:12

    A double loss for Spearfish South Dakota and a huge loss for religious youth seeking to learn about Christ. I wonder why the people of Spearfish allowed such a treasure slip through their hands.

    Reply this comment
  19. denny
    denny 10 April, 2013, 19:22

    how unfortunate that you people of Spearfish didn’t fight for this program. Now Spearfish is just an ordinary place not to visit. I’m not interested in Spearfish anymore. I’ll spend my dollars in Rapid City. What a triumph for them.

    Reply this comment
  20. Claudia
    Claudia 18 July, 2013, 05:08

    So disappointed to hear the Passion Play is no longer.
    Was going to come this July to it and now have no reason to come to Spearfish. What a shame!!!!!!

    Reply this comment
  21. Eric
    Eric 7 February, 2014, 18:27

    I am as upset as everybody else on this blog! We were planning a youth trip and were planning on taking 50 area kids to see the passion play as I did several times as a kid! I’d like to know what happened here. I guess the people that shut this down will have to answer to god one day! Is there any petitions out there to help bring this back?

    Reply this comment
    • Kelly Hudson
      Kelly Hudson 13 January, 2015, 16:51

      The reason the Passion Play ended was because the family that ran it decided to retire.
      For 2 generations it was organized by the same family. The Play ran in Spearfish half of the year and Florida the other half. And after doing this her whole life Joanie decided to retire. Like all good things it too must end. And as for answering to God, I”m sure that He will be pleased with her for all the years of dedication of running the performances. I know all of this information because my husband grow up in Spearfish ,as a child he got be in the plays. Joanie has been his mothers best friend since childhood.

      Reply this comment
  22. Darrell E Spilde
    Darrell E Spilde 15 January, 2015, 19:21

    I grew up in the Black Hills and during the later 1940’s spent summers with my cousin in Spearfish. Our greatest fun was serving as extras every night that the Play ran. It is still one of my fondest memories of so many years ago. So sorry to learn that it no longer exists.

    Reply this comment
  23. Richard
    Richard 2 March, 2015, 00:33

    I grew up in Rapid City, my family and friends went to the Passion Play many times….what a disappointment….

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