Theatresports: A Spark of In-Person Light

Review of Theatresports, presented by Unexpected Productions

Written by Teen Writer Lauren Rohde and edited by Teen Editor Lily Williamson

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To be honest, I had forgotten what it was like to see live theater. It had been over a year since I had seen any kind of theater in person; every production I’ve either seen or have been a part of during this time has been on Zoom. To drive to a real theater again, to stand outside waiting to be let in, and to get our tickets taken and led to our seats after fourteen months of no live theater was certainly a surreal experience. Of course, Unexpected Productions and the Market Theater took many safety precautions for this showing of Theatresports, including running the house at less than 25% of their usual audience and temperature checking every patron who entered the theater. Despite the changes, what they were able to foster through improv was as much performance as it was a social space, fulfilling an audience with much-needed laughter and joy.

Entering Post Alley, I felt a buzz of excitement among the staff at the theater. It was very clear everyone was anxious and itching to be back and doing improv, and the smell of fresh popcorn and busy chatter of voices only heightened the reality of being in a theater space again. I walked into the theater to find about three-fourths of the seats covered by t-shirts decorated with the faces of donors; these enforced social distancing and marked out areas audience members couldn’t sit. A large projector behind a keyboard showed a camera navigating the theater, panning over to patrons as they waved to the camera and to the empty stage as it awaited performers. This camera streamed the show live on Twitch for the viewing pleasure of people remaining at home, and occasionally, a chat with a suggestion popped onto the screen.Theatresports. Photo by Bill Grinnell.

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April’s Showers and Flowers

Teen Editorial Staff April 2021 Editorial

Written by Teen Editorial Staff Members Anya Shulka and Lucia McLaren

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As vaccination rates rise, we can see the tail end of the pandemic on the horizon (knock on wood!). In this uncertainty-filled year, it's a huge relief to see improving conditions, though exercising caution is more important than ever. Still, warmer weather is peeking around the corner, and there's plenty of art and media for you to explore this month—no matter what you're looking for.

It’s no secret that the news has gotten everyone thinking about what comes next. For those interested in what life might look like in the future, look no further than Unexpected Productions’ Seattle Theatresports, a now in-person improv show. For those who prefer to see what teens envision the coming years to look like, check out SIFF’s Futurewave, an exciting lineup of movies and shorts curated for youth audiences.

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Twisted Flicks: Jet City Conquers the Pandemic

Review of Twisted Flicks: Santa Claus Conquers the Martians presented by Jet City Improv

Written by Teen Writer Kyle Gerstel and edited by Teen Editor Triona Suiter

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Laughter is contagious. Unfortunately, another (much less enjoyable) thing called COVID-19 is too, which has forced theaters across the country to shut down for the majority of 2020. Luckily, the theatermakers at Jet City Improv are masters at saying “yes, and” and have invented new, creative ways to share their art in quarantine. I had the opportunity to watch their most recent venture, Twisted Flicks: Santa Claus Conquers the Martians, and I’m happy to report that they are on their way to conquering this pandemic with laughter, the best medicine (note: TeenTix does not endorse laughter as a replacement for vaccines).

Since 1997, Jet City’s Twisted Flicks have entertained audiences by irreverently voicing new dialogue and sound effects for the scum de la scum of cinema. Now, they’re utilizing Twitch to perform with a similar format from their homes, screen-sharing the film on a live-streamed Zoom meeting and receiving audience suggestions via a virtual chatbox. The bridge between audience and performer is one of the things I cherish most about theater, so this replication of that interaction felt refreshing and rare in quarantine. I hope non-improv theaters borrow this device for their productions as well to inject some of the energy of live theater that is lost online.

As for the actual show, improv either whisks you away or it doesn’t—this, unfortunately, didn’t. The performers were sensationally silly and Art Koshi’s improvised score seamlessly blended in with the emotions of the scenes, but I wasn’t captivated by the show’s structure. In the post-show Q+A, improviser Daryl Ducharme commented, “We’re still figuring out virtual improv. It’s okay to experiment and even fail a little bit because that’s how improv became what it is now.” While I believe it was a worthwhile experiment, the long form’s confinement to planned visuals as well as the lack of audience participation for the bulk of the production made it less engaging online. Behind the scenes of Jet City Improv's Twisted Flicks: Santa Claus Conquers the Martians. Photo courtesy of Jet City Improv.

The scenes worked best when the actors were fully committed to their characters, impressively mimicking the emotions portrayed on-screen while supplying the story with much-needed emotional weight. Incorporating flourishes such as sound effects and pop culture references added splashes of entertainment value, but they only succeeded when held together by strong characters. There were quite a few moments that caused me to laugh aloud, from anti-humor one-liners such as “be there or come later and be there then” to inevitable quips about COVID, but the improvisers often didn’t build upon the situations for maximum comedic synergy, which made the piece no greater than the sum of its one-liners.

While some of the humor was lost in translation online, the charisma and communal values of Jet City weren’t. From the preshow to the Q+A, the cast made me feel more in touch with the local arts community than I have for months, effortlessly creating a collaborative environment despite the challenges of performing virtually. One actor even dressed in a Santa suit and performed the show as Santa performing the role of Santa in the film (“so meta,” as one improviser cheekily commented). However, this casualness was a double-edged sword, causing many performers to not act with a straight face, which snapped my sense of escapism and detracted from the jokes.

Despite the foundation not succeeding for me as an audience member, the show was a pleasant change of pace for quarantine entertainment. I look forward to seeing how Jet City improvisers continue to refine their craft and provide laughter to our community at this time when all we have is each other.

Check out Jet City Improv’s improvised romps from now till the end of time, on their website.

Lead photo credit: Screenshot from Jet City Improv's Twisted Flicks: Santa Claus Conquers the Martians. Photo courtesy of Jet City Improv.

The TeenTix Newsroom is a group of teen writers led by the Teen Editorial Staff. For each review, Newsroom writers work individually with a teen editor to polish their writing for publication. The Teen Editorial Staff is made up of 6 teens who curate the review portion of the TeenTix blog. More information about the Teen Editorial Staff can be found HERE.

The TeenTix Press Corps promotes critical thinking, communication, and information literacy through criticism and journalism practice for teens. For more information about the Press Corps program see HERE.

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December, a Time For Expression

Teen Editorial Staff December 2020 Editorial

Written by Teen Editorial Staff Members Lucia McLaren and Mila Borowski

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When the weather outside is frightful, it’s the best time of the year to curl up with a hot drink and watch some socially-distanced entertainment! This December, we hope this wide variety of arts programs will have a treat for just about anyone.

To explore the realms of dance, Written in Water by the Ragamala Dance Company and presented by Meany Center for the Performing Arts, takes a refreshing, multimedia take on one’s journey to connect themself with their emotions and spirituality. If you’ve been craving a more comedic escape, take a look at Jet City Improv’s Twisted Flicks. Their improv-dialogue over classic movies of the past is sure to give you the laughter you need. When it comes to missing the experience of your favorite local restaurant, SIFF presents Bread, Love, and Cinema, a class on Italian food and how it’s interconnected with Italian film history.

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Jet City, Improv(ed?)

Review of Comedy in Quarantine by Jet City Improv
Written by Teen Editor Kendall Kieras and edited by Press Corps Mentor Chris Calabria

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I have not yet found a more accurate description for my quarantine mood than a line delivered in the middle of Jet City Improv’s Comedy in Quarantine. “Nathan, this is going very badly. It’s a new medium and I’m suffering.” With all the new skills we’re learning in quarantine, improv has gained a big one too: self awareness. An hour long, live-streamed showcase of four indie improv duos, Comedy in Quarantine has sprung up to replace the weekly, in-person improv we know and love, utilizing Twitch streaming and chat features to simulate the suggestion process so integral to improv.

The best moments of the performance adapted advantageously to the digital medium. The first comedy duo, The Appropriate Ladies of Weatherbee, used Zoom backgrounds to transport themselves to an ambiguous, old-timey England. The backgrounds helped the scene work in a way not possible in-person, complimenting iconic, off-kilter lines, such as, “I do love to crush a small bug between my fingers from time to time”, and “Mildred, I believe your goat is the devil incarnate.” The next team, Price Nixon, used backgrounds varying from Tiger King screencaps to a Third Eye Blind concert and Trolls: World Tour. Up next, Beckz and Mads filmed in their bathrooms, playing beauty vloggers stuck in Vegas due to a cancelled convention, being legally obligated to film YouTube videos from their hotel rooms. A delightful finale, Storyboard, featured live cartooning, music, and an improvised Choose-Your-Own-Adventure storybook. Storyboard served as delightful proof quarantine doesn’t have to tamper art, and leaning in to adaptation can create something wonderful. Screenshot from Jet City Improv's Comedy in Quarantine.

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ComedySportz: Wing It Til You Win It

Review of ComedySportz by CSz Seattle

Written by TeenTix Newsroom Writer Leuel Bekele and edited by Teen Editor Joshua Fernandes

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The world is a slightly better place for having improvisation than it was before improvisation. We all improvise, whether we like to admit it or not, but those who champion it have a way of releasing the imagination of others. It’s more prevalent than is apparent at first glance, and many common games like Charades, I Spy, and even Dungeons and Dragons rely on improvisation. In fact, my earliest encounter with improv was when I’d conjure games up with my siblings and cousins on a piece of paper; from role playing games with very loose rules to a much more difficult version of Battleship. However, the most common association is stage-based improv, and local venues in the Seattle area such as CSz Seattle which has been livestreaming their ComedySportz shows as of late. ComedySportz is usually a live, fast-paced comedy show with a live audience, but due to the mandating of social distancing they moved the show online. The live stream is still available for free on the CSz Seattle Facebook page.

In many ways it reminded me of MTV's Wild N’ Out, which is the first example of improv that comes to mind for many people, including myself. Like Wild N’ Out, the show pits two teams of comedians against each other in a variety of improv games such as Story, Mom's Spaghetti, Hashtag, Finishing School, 185, and more, except without the occasional profanities. In each game, suggestions were pulled from the comments section; ranging from genres of film, strong emotions, and household appliances, to celebrities, specific regional accents, and more. Usually they’d compete for the audience's laughter, but in this case, they competed for the praise of the comments section.

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Virtual World? See Virtual Art!

Editorial written by TeenTix Newsroom Writer Sumeya Block and edited by Teen Editor Tova Gaster

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Is anyone else very, very, very, bored? It’s weird to think that not even a month ago, we were all living entirely different lives. On March 1st, we were still going about our normal routines: taking buses to school, eating lunch (and sharing food!) with friends, and of course, using our TeenTix passes. But all that has changed. Now, I go to my classes via Zoom, I take a walk around the block, and, like everyone else, I try my best to help contain COVID-19. To fill my boredom, I have participated in lots of virtual art. There are many lessons we have learned since quarantine and one of the big ones is that humans are adaptable; we change to fit our environment no matter how drastic the situation.

Just like how we have had to adapt, so has art, by catering to an online audience. One can no longer fill McCaw Hall or the beautiful MOHAI Museum but can instead fill an infinite number of virtual seats through a computer screen. Currently, Jet City Improv is hosting a virtual happy hour via Twitch. Seattle Opera and Seattle Art Museum have created an interactive page full of weekly podcasts, interviews, and hand-picked playlists. And those are just a few of the events going on this month! I love being able to support local art right from my bed by interacting, sharing, and donating to their websites. But the true power of virtual art is the ability to experience it from anywhere, try something new, and hear the voices of people from all over the world.

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Fresher Start!

Teen Editorial Staff March 2020 Editorial

Written by Teen Editor Kendall Kieras!

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We all promise ourselves that the new year will bring a “new me,” but let’s all be honest and admit that the few people among us who still maintain resolutions have already forgotten about them by now. Who even designed the calendar system so that the year would start in the middle of winter? No, the true start of the year is now, with the beginning of Spring! It’s bright, it’s sunny, and we’ve got just the art to give you that fresh start we all need right now!

If you’re looking to shock yourself awake this Spring, there’s no better place to start than Rebecca Brewer’s Natural Horror at the Frye Art Museum. Toying with the psychological effect of the relationship between humans and the natural world, the pieces seem to come alive with their bold and flowing shapes evoking expressionistic painting through the medium of crafts.

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A Series of (Un)Fortunate Events

Review of A Sequence of Wretched Events at Jet City Improv

Written collectively by the Teen Editorial Staff

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Please, dear reader, take care. The review you are about to read is one of extreme despair, disaster, and community-based youth empowerment in the arts. Recently, six teen editors, a word which here means “teenagers most unpopular in their high schools,” descended upon A Sequence of Wretched Events at Jet City Improv, inspired by Lemony Snicket’s infamous series A Series of Unfortunate Events. What followed was a night of improvisation, impressive stylistic details, and heavy Skittle consumption. Reader, be warned: this review is sure to lead only to despair, and we advise you to click away as quickly as possible. If you continue on this path, only wretched things await.

If you have chosen to continue reading this review, we must begin at the only place there is to begin, the beginning. We began with our narrator themselves, modeled after Lemony Snicket, introducing us to our main characters, two young girls reeling from their father’s death in a mountainous crevasse. The show followed these two as they embarked on a journey to find their father, because, in their words, “a crevasse is never a death sentence.”

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Fresh St(ART)

Teen Editorial Staff January 2020 Editorial

Written by Teen Editor Joshua Fernandes!

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2019 was the year of death. We waved goodbye to the beloved characters of film franchises like Star Wars and Marvel, mourned the loss of real life heroes, and said farewell to the 2010s. But now is the time to be reborn with iron clad resolutions for the new year, and what better resolution than to seek out the freshest art of the decade?

At Seattle Art Museum there's Into Existence, an exhibit all about giving new life to the items America discards and using them to express the stories America tells. Witness security gates, afro wigs, and car parts weave together and form into the ideas and dreams of artist Aaron Fowler in the shape of cultural icons and personal figures. If you're left craving a different mix of history and creativity, check out author Isabel Allende and dive into her book A Long Petal of the Sea at Town Hall Seattle. Using the story of two refugees fleeing a fascist Spain in the 1930s to explore motifs of oppression, exile, and hope, this event is sure to please any fans of historical fiction. If you're still looking for that perfect mixture of education and entertainment, then Jaha Koo: Cuckoo at On the Boards might be what you're looking for. It analyses the rocky history of Korea over the past 20 years and the isolationism that currently grips the population through the commentary of a South Korean artist and his three rice cookers.

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Antiques Improv: "Discovering Seattle’s Hidden Treasures!"

Review of Antiques Improv Show at Jet City Improv.

Written by Teen Editor Joshua Fernandes and edited by Teen Editor Olivia Sun.

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Money may very well be the root of all evil, but at Antiques Improv Show by Jet City Improv, monetary value becomes the butt of an evening-spanning joke. If you’ve ever found yourself channel-surfing a TV without cable from the hours of 7 to 9 pm, then you’ve likely stumbled upon the incredibly mundane world of Antiques Roadshow. For those who haven’t been enlightened, the basic premise of the show is that local people bring in valuable, old, or innocuous items for appraisal by the traveling Antiques Roadshow experts, and the most valuable or interesting items get put into the show.

Similarly, in Antiques Improv Show, each audience member is encouraged to bring an item of their own for appraisal. Unlike the TV show, however, these items don’t need to be valuable, significant, or even antiques. Instead, it’s up to the “appraisers” (Taya K. Beattie, Glen Dodge, Matt Jurasek, Randy S. Miller, Austin Olson, Jenn Petti, Sam Riordan, and Emily Shuel) to give them value by creating lavish stories for the items. I brought a chess participation trophy I “won” 7 years ago, but after an initial appraisal, it turned out to be a relic from the knights of templar with connections to the holy grail.

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B-List is the Best List

Teen Editorial Staff September 2019 Editorial

Written by Teen Editors Anya Shukla and Tova Gaster!

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As the great Calvin of Calvin and Hobbes once said, “It is now two days closer to the start of school than it was two days ago.”

We made that sentence its own paragraph, because the idea can stand alone as a bringer of pure, unadulterated panic.

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DISCOUNT OFFER: Get a Deal on this Comedy Course!

Learn the basics of improv, stand-up, and sketch comedy at MoPOP this summer!

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Our generous friends at the Museum of Pop Culture (aka MoPOP) are offering a super discount for Mic Drop: Comedy Camp this July!

Mic Drop is a two-week long summer camp for high schoolers. Working with three local professional comedians, campers will learn the basics of improv, sketch comedy, and stand-up. In the second week of camp, they’ll prepare for a final showcase at Unexpected Productions Market Theater (another TeenTix Partner!) Campers will also learn about the business of comedy and how to navigate the professional side of being a comedian. The goal is to cultivate a safe environment where campers feel like they can take risks, count on each other, and have an awesome two weeks. MoPOP ultimately wants to help shape the local comedy landscape to be one where marginalized voices are amplified and lifted up.

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Not Your Grandma’s Improv Show

Review of Boom Bap at ComedySportz Seattle

Written by TeenTix Newsroom Writer Spencer Klein, and edited by Teen Editor Joshua Fernandes!

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My name is Spencer and what I’d like to do, is talk about Boom Bap with all of you! It’s my new favorite show at CSz if you wanna know, why read my review and see!

When you walk into Atlas Theater in Fremont, WA, the jokes start before the show does. Above their cash register is a dollar bill hanging on the wall with the caption “The First Dollar That CSz Seattle Ever Framed.” CSz Seattle, of course, refers to the Pacific Northwest’s iteration of what is a national league of competitive improv referred to as “Comedy Sportz”.

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Spontaneity Captures the Essence of a Wes Anderson World

Review of Yes Anderson at Jet City Improv.

Written by TeenTix Press Corps Newsroom Writer Jaiden Borowski, and edited by Teen Editorial Staff Member Huma Ali!

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Wes Anderson, the filmmaker of notable movies like The Royal Tenenbaums and Moonrise Kingdom, inspired the team at Jet City Improv to design the show Yes Anderson—based off of a social media following of Anderson’s called “Accidentally Wes Anderson.” After hearing about the basis of this show, the questions that arose weren’t “How would Jet City Improv accomplish this?” or “What led them to attempt this challenge?” Rather, my initial thought was, “What is ‘Accidentally Wes Anderson’?” More commonly referred to as Accidental Anderson, as was revealed after a quick Google search, it’s a website where people post pictures of places that look like they could have been ripped straight out of an Anderson film.

Because I haven’t seen many of Wes Anderson’s works, I wondered if this show would prove applicable to an audience unfamiliar with the context, like myself. As the show began, I quickly realized it’s broadly relatable. From the beginning, the Anderson style wasn’t forced into the show and flowed well with the sudden, random changes in plot that improv provides.

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A Night Full of Laughs, Holiday Cheer, and Way Too Much Fun

Review of A(n improvised) Christmas Carol by Unexpected Productions.

Written by TeenTix Press Corps Newsroom Writer Sumeya Block, and edited by Teen Editorial Staff Member Joshua Fernandes!

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A Christmas Carol, written by Charles Dickens, is an already well known holiday story that makes its way around as a Christmas classic. Many are familiar with the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future, teaching viewers about the values of being a good person through some funny characters, and of course, holiday cheer. Yet when A Christmas Carol turns into improv and Scrooge is the head of a meditation school, the story we know so well becomes much funnier, and maybe even better than before. The special thing about A(n improvised) Christmas Carol is that the audience are the ones who create the story. A half hour before the show, one of the actors came out to ask a series of questions that would impact how the rest of the night went. The audience got to choose things like the quirks of each character, such as playing with other people’s hair when stressed. He asked who was returning to see the show again. I watched from my seat as loud cheers and applause erupted from the crowd. More than half of the room, which was full, raised their hands with excitement and chatter. There was also us newcomers, silent at first, who also raised our hands, still excited for what was next. I loved that the audience had people of all ages. This made it a friendlier experience, which I appreciated since this was my first improv show. A favorite suggestion of mine from the audience was making Tiny Tim sick from laser eye disease. Later on this was incorporated into the show when we saw Tiny Tim walk out with huge goggles on his face to protect his eyes from lasering others. Some other suggestions that made it into the show that night included Scrooge living under the stairs, the Ghost of Christmas Past being a teletubbie, Scrooge having a stash of hidden gold bars, and Scrooge licking Cratchit’s toes. The ability each actor has to add their own special touch to a character is remarkable, incorporating the tiny quirks mentioned by the audience and adding their own ideas as well, such as how Scrooge liked to slam doors or the Ghost of Christmas Past liked to repeat “Your mom is dead!” and “Scrooge is sad!” over and over again. Even my own suggestion, taping pictures of people’s faces to a door to evoke joy, was incorporated multiple times into the show. I loved that feeling of accomplishment when your suggestion made people laugh.

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Creatively Induced Laughter at ComedySportz

Review of ComedySportz.

Written by TeenTix Press Corps Newsroom Writer Jaiden Borowski, and edited by Teen Editorial Staff Member Lily Williamson!

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The Atlas Theatre, where ComedySportz performs, creates a quirky and fun atmosphere by placing paintings by local artists (one depicts Edward Scissorhands giving Chewbacca a haircut) and odd trinkets, such as a ventriloquist dummy that stares down at the audience, around the theater. These purposefully placed objects effectively add a unique vibe to the already unusual space.

The referee, who controls the game and gives out points, comes onto the stage to begin the game. The chairs in the back are already full and the murmur of soft conversation was serving as background noise long before I walked into the room. People are relaxed before the referee begins his introduction, and the easy mood of the room sets the tone of the evening.

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Creature Comedy at Jet City Improv

Review of Twisted Flicks at Jet City Improv.

Written by TeenTix Press Corps Writer Ben Capuano, and edited by Teen Editorial Staff Member Anya Shukla!

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If you’ve lived in Seattle long enough, at some point, you might have seen a poster for Twisted Flicks and wondered what Jet City Improv’s on-the-spot movie redubbing entails. The premise for the show is simple: an obscure black and white movie is played in its entirety while improv performers and musicians reimagine the dialogue and score. It’s been happening with a new film every month ever since the 1997 original, but, on October 25th, I saw the opening night performance of Ed Wood’s Bride of the Monster.

I immediately loved the mood of the venue from the moment I walked in. A large amount of attendees who seemed to be regulars were already seated and mingling with the cast, who were roaming the theater for suggestions. This atmosphere made the space feel like it hosted a community of people who cared about each other—comedians who love to perform and an audience eager to support them. Even with an established fan base, the environment was nothing but welcoming and not exclusionary in any capacity.

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The Fantastically Dark “Dark Fantastic”

Review of 18th & Union's Dark Fantastic, written by Teen Editorial Staff Member Josh F, and edited by Teen Editorial Staff Member Huma A!
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I'm not someone who's really into horror. It's just not something I grew up having, and nowadays, it seems to be rapidly dropping in quality. I’m also not someone who's really into improv. I've always liked the idea, but, as a newcomer, the thought of audience interaction always seemed too intimidating. So when I went to see Dark Fantastic, a horror improv show, I really had no idea what to expect. I only knew the show combined horror with improv, a primarily humour driven art, so it interested me quite a bit.

The theatre was small—49-max-occupants-small, to be specific—with sheets of cellophane covering brick walls, foreshadowing the gory fates that lay ahead. When the show started, the audience was asked two questions. First, “What is your biggest fear?” (to which someone replied, “A Roomba”), and, second, “What is an object you would find in your grandmother's house?” Answer? “ A Doily.”

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