Thursday, November 14, 2019

Guest Post: Nathan Cox Writes About Saving "Jet City Improv"

Courtesy Jet City Improv
On the north end of the Ave in the University District, nearly every day of the year, there are people laughing at live theater in an old, bright yellow building with Jet City Improv painted across the front of it. In about a year that building will be gone, replaced by apartments. You’ve probably heard a similar story before, but you can do something about it now. We need your help and here’s why you should.

Growing up in Seattle, my parents surrounded me with all of the arts experiences that they could on a meager budget. This city felt like a vibrant, thriving space where you could experience most anything, but everything still felt like Seattle. I moved away to Whatcom County in 1995 and before I returned in 2011, I had fallen in love with improv, or improvisational theater. I’ve been performing, teaching, directing and watching a lot of shows in the past 15 years. Jet City Improv fast became my artistic home in Seattle, even if the arts friendly Seattle I grew up with has changed. 

Improvisation is often regarded as a tool to achieve higher forms of art, whether that be acting, jazz, dance or painting. More recently it has also been recognized and utilized as a radical tool in the work-space to get employees to listen, find agreement and say yes to each other. Jet City Improv is an internationally known leader in narrative improvised plays. It is the only theater dedicated to it in Western Washington. 

Whenever we prepare an improvised play or long-form show, the cast and crew spends 2-3 nights a week for about two months rehearsing. That means bonding and creating trust between performers, discovering stories together and studying the style of the show we’re doing (Gilbert & Sullivan, Medieval Fantasy, Hip-Hop Biography, Aaron Sorkin, American Folktale, Murder Mystery, etc). I have seen audiences doubled over laughing, singing along in joy, crying over dying characters and cheering for a hero triumphing over a villain. All of which is inspired by or involving the ideas and stories of our audience. 

While we pride ourselves over the on-the-spot nature of the art, the time we spend in preparation allows our work to be intentional, thoughtful and polished through combining multiple artistic disciplines. If our theater can’t find a new home, all of that and more may disappear. 
(Todd Gardiner)
For Jet City, improv is about more than just the production on stage. It is our civic responsibility to give back to the community that surrounds us. Every summer we perform at over a dozen summer camps for children living with disabilities, illness, injury and bereavement. We work with at risk youth in the King County juvenile detention center and the Sanctuary Art Center. 

Improv classes, whether for youth, adult students or local companies give our community a way to express themselves artistically and learn skills and philosophies that are beneficial whether they end up using them onstage, at work or with friends and loved ones. We know the need for our theater and all art to be inclusive, diverse and equitable. We are continuing to take steps to ensure that this is a reality and not just a spoken value. 

We need your help to keep this theater alive. You would not only be sustaining a charitable organization, but an art form as well. Seattleites continue to keep getting increasingly walled off from one another, and we wax nostalgic for communal and artistic spaces and experiences and mourn the loss of past institutions. 

Can art exist in 40 seat theaters with minimal infrastructure and a budget that comes directly from the artists’ pockets? Maybe for a few months, but not sustainably, not in this city, not anymore. We need the support of our community to keep the arts alive in Seattle and that includes you. 

You can support us through tax deductible donations. You can join our board of directors. You can tell us if you know of a theater space that is available. Heck, you can build us a theater in your new apartment/office/brewery/whatever. Come see a show at Jet City Improv. I recommend Britain’s Baking Challenge, an improvised culinary competition filled with lovable characters, inspired by a beloved TV series. Yes, we actually bake onstage. It runs Nov 14-22 & Dec 5-20, Thursdays and Fridays at 7:30pm. Donate at and contact us at if you have information or ideas about our next physical home. 

I love this city. I love the improv community here. I love the transformative power of theater and storytelling and the magic that exists when it is temporary and only exists for a moment for the people that were in that room on that night. My hope is that Seattle can still be home to those temporary moments on a permanent basis. 

Nathan Cox
Jet City Ensemble Member, Teacher and Director

No comments:

Post a Comment

This is a moderated comment section. Any comment can be deleted if the moderator feels that basic civility standards are not being met. Disagreements, however, if respectfully stated, are certainly welcome. Just keep the discussion intelligent and relatively kind.