Nathan Jeffrey brings new inspiration to “Godspell”If Christ were coming to Seattle, I think that’s where we’d find him
Ten people stand in a circle, rehearsing for “Godspell.” A green ball bounces from the left to the right. At the same time, a blue ball bounces from the right to the left.
Two knit balls are handed around the circle as quickly as possible. One woman laughs as she misses the purple ball being tossed at her and runs after it.
The director of the show, Nathan Jeffrey, stands in the circle as well, helping his cast warm up for their rehearsal.
Jeffrey knew about The Driftwood Players Theater from his time spent in Edmonds during graduate school. He was hired to direct “Godspell” for the 2012-2013 Season after directing “Proof” for the theater previously.
“His energy and friendliness on top of his enthusiasm for the overall concept of the show was something that really impressed all of us,” said Judy Anne Wyrick-Eaton, co-producer of “Godspell” and member of the director selection committee. “He had some innovative ideas.”
Jeffrey, 32, said there was a moment in high school when he started to see plays more deeply. It was just after he’d read “Equus” by Peter Shaffer. “It was the first time I’d been able to look past the story of the play,” he said.
Jeffrey earned his bachelor’s degree from Abilene Christian University in Texas. His emphasis was in acting and directing. Four years later, he earned his master’s degree in directing from Rutgers University in New Jersey.
During his time at Rutgers, Jeffrey visited friends in Edmonds, over the summer and worked at Taproot Theatre Company in Seattle.
He later applied to be the director of outreach for Taproot Theatre. “I had built this relationship with Taproot,” Jeffrey said. “I really wanted to work there. I loved Seattle.”
Shortly after Jeffrey was hired, his job was expanded to include education. He became the director of education and outreach. Jeffrey now manages Taproot’s touring program and hires teachers, actors and interns.
He directs the majority of the touring shows, which primarily visit schools. The company’s current focus is on prevention of bullying and harassment.
“More than 50 percent of our schools from last year have had us back, which is record breaking,” Jeffrey said.
The first thing he does when directing a play is read as much of the author’s work as he can get his hands on, he said. He wants to understand the author’s voice and particular writing style.
John-Michael Tebelak, the writer of the original book for the show, was trying to create a Jesus who was very much alive, Jeffrey said. “I think this show does that very very well.”
“Godspell” appealed to him for several reasons. “On a very broad level, it’s wildly entertaining,” he said. “On a deeper level, I think it’s a great show for Christians because so much of it is directly from the Gospel. But it’s also a great show for everyone because it’s about the building of this community from individuals.”
Jeffrey said he was also working in downtown Seattle as an overnight valet in Pioneer Square when he was hired to direct “Godspell.”
“I’d get there as the clubs start up and leave at 7 a.m. after business people get up and start to leave for the day,” he said. “Dock workers were coming through. It struck me what a shared public space that is, one of the biggest melting pots of our city.”
It was from this job that Jeffrey got the idea to set his version of “Godspell” in Pioneer Square. “If Christ were coming to Seattle, I think that’s where we’d find him,” Jeffrey said.
At the beginning of the play, the characters are painfully alone and trapped. The process of discovery is learning that they don’t have to be alone, he said.
“We don’t have to each be fighting for ourselves,” Jeffrey said. “We can be fighting for each other.”
Emily Lauckhart, a member of the cast, has worked with the theater but never acted in a show before “Godspell.”
“I love the message of love and acceptance,” she said. “There aren't many shows out there now that are appealing to all ages.”
Lauckhart said she adores Jeffrey.
“He treats everyone as equals with a great amount of respect and camaraderie,” she said. “Nathan brings a feeling of comfort that allows us to make mistakes without getting embarrassed.”
Jeffrey said he enjoys directing because it is complex.
“For me, all art is about creating a space and time that draws us out of routine and opens the mind and the heart to more possibilities,” he said. “That’s what I strive to do.”
“Godspell” plays at the Wade James Theater 950 Main Street, Edmonds. It runs Friday, April 12, through Sunday, May 5. General Admission Tickets are $25.