Q&A with ‘The Tempest’ director Jeff Sanders

March 29, 2018 By Christine Tully
Photo: Students in Shakespeare's, The Tempest

EWU Theatre’s production of The Tempest is now showing. Filled with monsters, fairies, romance and shipwrecks, the production is Shakespeare’s final and most mature romance.

How did you decide on The Tempest for the winter quarter play?

I’m currently drawn to stories that seem to unify us as people as opposed to divide us. I think Shakespeare is a great spokesman of that, in that his stories deal with what always connects us or ties us together—what it means to be human. For me, The Tempest quintessentially is about how we are capable of transcendence.

This is a Shakespeare production. How does his work challenge or vary for students compared to other productions?

There are challenges, no doubt. This being his last play, I would say textually it’s one of his most difficult plays. He’s really exercising every tool that’s in his toolbox as a playwright through this final play. And although it’s a play about transcendence and forgiveness, it’s also hilarious. It’s one of his funniest plays. It has a subplot with a clown and a drunken butler and it’s farcical. It works on a multitude of different levels. That’s a challenge, but also a delight to work with.

What has been your favorite part of directing this play?

The Tempest humbles you pretty quickly. You have to be pretty creative with how you wish to execute the action of the play. There’s no manual given to the director or the theatre artist for how to pull off some of the strangeness of the play. For example, a “large demonic monster appears” halfway through the play. I’d say my favorite part is coming together with the design team and brick by brick creating this little magical, holy church. We get to create our own tempest and see it come together. One of the cool things about this particular production is that we hired a composer to do all original music for the play. It has a lot of dance in it so we also hired a choreographer to do the dances.

What kind of audience member is going to love and resonate with this show?

I think there’s a diversity of possibilities. From my four-year-old to someone who’s in a much different place in their life. Much of this play deals with mortality. From capturing a child’s imagination to the end of one’s life and what it means to set your soul free. Then there’s the student who’s like, ‘Man, I like comedies.’ It seems like Shakespeare was trying take every style from his career and put it into this play. That’s one of the wonderful things of the play. It can check off all the boxes, as long as you come into it with an open mind.

“It’s always been one of my favorite Shakespeare plays,” said Jeffrey Sanders, director of The Tempest and senior lecturer in the EWU Theatre Department.

The Tempest opened Friday, March 9, and will continue March 15-17 at the EWU Theatre.

Tickets are free for EWU students with their ID; general admissions are $10 cash or check.