Improvisation. The mere mention of the word strikes fear in the hearts of most actors, who are used to a set script. However, Jet City Improv has spent the last 22 years becoming a Seattle staple of spontaneity, and with shows on such topics as Jane Austen and Gilbert and Sullivan, the cohort isn’t afraid of tough source material.
Next up? The White House. (Well, the fictional one.) Starting April 3, Jet City will focus its satiric attention on Academy Award–winner Aaron Sorkin’s popular TV drama in American Glory: the improvised West Wing. Expect the show to employ the verbose, patriotic language that has become Sorkin’s writerly trademark. The show is scheduled to run through May 23.
“It’s a world devoid of any irony and cynicism,” director Chris Allen explains. The hour-long production will begin with the ensemble asking the audience to I.D. any familiar American institution. “What if it was a pizza parlor?” posits Andrew McMasters, who founded Jet City with Mike Christensen. “It would have to be the most American and dedicated pizza parlor of all time!”
Besides intellectual language, there is one other skill to master in order to be a true “West Wing” tribute: the walk-and-talk meetings. “That has been the bane of this show,” McMasters laments. “It’s a wonderful cinematic technique, but it’s not a theatrical technique,” Allen adds. “We have three or four ways we’re rehearsing right now to create the illusion of people moving in a much larger space.”
But despite the verbal and physical challenges of the show, the troupe remains undaunted. “It’s going to be very difficult,” Allen says, “but we’re taking the best improvisers and give them something they’ve never done before.”