No Mediocrity

Jay C. Cotner: 1971-2010

At the end of this month, Jay C. Cotner has an appointment to audition for the Steppenwolf Theatre Company in Chicago.

But the 39-year-old actor—who wowed Tucson audiences in performances with theater organizations including Arizona Onstage Productions, Studio Connections and Etcetera—won't make that appointment.

Cotner died on Wednesday, May 12, after suffering from cardiac arrest during a diabetic seizure.

His sister, Lynn Cotner-Kosick, said Cotner recently moved to Chicago to further his acting career and was excited at the prospect of auditioning for Steppenwolf.

"The opportunities available to him (in Chicago) were a lot more, but that doesn't mean he didn't love what he did in Tucson and the people he worked with," she said.

Cotner, a 2001 graduate of the UA School of Theatre Arts, was well-regarded for his work in Tucson with Kevin Johnson at Arizona Onstage Productions in The Great American Trailer Park Musical; Gutenberg! The Musical!; Jewtopia; and The Full Monty. He also received positive reviews for his role as Louis in Studio Connections' production of Angels in America.

"Angels in America was by far his most rewarding role," Cotner-Kosick said. "It was also his most challenging ... but I remember it left an impression."

Studio Connections' artistic director Robert Encila described Cotner as an "all-around quintessential professional."

Johnson, founder and artistic director of Arizona Onstage, said that Cotner told him during the week of his death that he was at the happiest point of his life, because auditions were falling into place.

"He has this ability to enrich and enlighten, and make people think of things differently," Johnson said. "He put his art first."

A memorial for Cotner is slated for 1 p.m., Saturday, May 22, at the Temple of Music and Art, 330 S. Scott Ave. To share something about Cotner for the memorial, send it to Annette Hillman at

Cotner, born Oct. 27, 1971, is survived by his sister, as well as his brother, Wesley; his parents, James and Deana Cotner; and numerous nieces and nephews.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to the American Diabetes Association ( or an inner-city youth project that focuses on the arts.

"To Jay, life without art is a life of mediocrity," his sister said.

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