Theatre Off Jackson Programs
Sharing Our Space
TOJ serves as a presenting organization that houses the work of multiple smaller and independent arts producing groups/individual artists (instead of being a content producer). From the start of our reorganization in 2005, we have made it a goal to collaborate with some of the most interesting, acclaimed, and successful local theater artists and musicians. We have proactively approached many of the artists and companies whose work we have loved and booked their events here. During the past eight years, TOJ's programming has ramped up considerably so that we are now presenting arts events most every week of the year. Our roster has included plays, readings, concerts, film screenings, puppet shows, gallery exhibits, and other events produced in collaboration with some of the leading artists on Seattle's independent theater scene: Printer's Devil Theater, JoJo Stiletto Events, Pony World Theatre, Live Girls! Theater, The Cody Rivers Show, SketchFest Seattle and artists Peggy Platt, Lisa Koch, Sarah Rudinoff, and Scot Augustson, among others. We are the home for the popular "Salon of Shame" and "A Guide To Visitors" series.
Since its inception, TOJ has maximized use of its space and assets. Whether it is Seattle Storm telecasts during the slow summers, or L Word viewing parties on Sunday nights, we have been creative in identifying and meeting the needs of underserved communities. In 2007, we launched Seattle's Solo Performance Festival (SPF) to fill the void left by the then-defunct Seattle Fringe Festival. This now annual festival attracts the participation of national touring artists who regularly perform on the famous Canadian fringe circuit. In addition to the annual festival, SPF is now bringing solo performers to TOJ throughout the year. SPF performers have included Keira McDonald, James Judd, Mike Daisey, Charles Leggett, Keith Hitchcock, Jayson MacDonald, Julie Goldman, Morgan Rowe, Brian Copeland, Lauren Weedman, Bhama Roget, Tina Vernon, Lisa Koch and Billie Wildrick. Also in 2007 and 2008, we produced a site-specific event in Georgetown's Rainier Brewery. Our Haunted Brew House Tour was the bonus stop on Georgetown's annual Haunted History Walking Tour, which is scheduled to coincide with Halloween. After touring the Georgetown neighborhood and learning of its history, ghosts and characters, patrons were invited to experience the four-story Brew House at night. Decorated with only sparse lighting and ghosts, patrons enjoy a ghost story about the brewery characters and music from some of Seattle's most talented, eclectic bands.
TOJ offers discounted or donated use of our facility to neighborhood and APA artists. We have presented work from isangmahal, Aono Jikken Ensemble, Pork Filled Players, Susie Lee, the International District Children's Park and the Northwest Asian American Film Festival, among others. In 2009 we participated in the ID's first monthly Art Walks. Not only did we assist with planning and coordination, our gallery space was the starting point of the tour and we exhibited short films in our theater.
Recent Successes and Current Challenges
Over the past few years, we have strengthened our organization through board development. With the assistance of a local non-profit arts consulting firm, The Shunpike, we initiated a Board Recruitment process which culminated in a series of training workshops on the fundamental roles and responsibilities for a non-profit board of directors. Following on the work of these successful initiatives, TOJ engaged in a strategic planning process to examine our current structure, purpose and activities and consider how best to continue our work as a vital local arts organization in the coming years. TOJ completed this year-long process with a published five-year strategic plan in February 2010.
TOJ sees its role as helping to maintain the existence of a reasonably priced and well-supported performance space so that small and mid-sized arts companies and individual artists will have a stable place to create. Many small arts organizations spend more and more of their time raising money just to pay the market rate rents on their leased spaces, only to lose those spaces to property sales or to renters who can pay more than market rate. TOJ is committed to being there for smaller groups so that they can spend less of their time and resources on finding and renting space (or building out spaces that aren't properly equipped as performance venues), and more of it on artistic quality and audience development matters. Performance spaces for small to mid-size arts groups continue to be scarce in Seattle.
One by one, theaters in town are grabbing headlines and closing due to rising costs of rent, shrinking funding pools, and in some cases, mismanagement. The reality for many itinerant renting groups is that they are forced to secure a venue at least a year in advance or risk the chance of being waitlisted. TOJ is currently under a month-to-month lease which is a less than ideal situation as far as longer term planning goes. We are working with the full support of our landlord, the Seattle Chinatown/International District Preservation and Development Authority, but unfortunately they are not the site's owners. Verbally, the SCIDPDA wants us to stay, but frankly we don't yet have a lease that guarantees us stability for the long term. While we expect to negotiate a short extension for the next 2-5 years, we are preparing ourselves for a move.