Portland, OR. The 19th annual JAW (short for Just Add Water): A Playwrights Festival, offers a chance to preview new scripts while they’re still in development. The JAW Big Weekend is July 28-30 in various locations at the Portland Center Stage facility: The Armory. JAW is free and open to the public. More information is available at www.pcs.org/jaw.

This year’s JAW staged readings include Kate Attwell’s Testmatch, examining women’s sports, mangos, and the ever-present legacy of colonialism; Small Steps by Briandaniel Oglesby, a comedy traversing 50 million miles and a million years; Mfoniso Udofia’s In Old Age, part of a nine-play cycle about Nigerian American immigrants that explores the true nature of love and forgiveness; and Tiny Houses, Stefanie Zadravec’s comic riff on Pandora’s Box that follows the ripple effect on several women who suddenly realize they can disrupt the status quo. Surrounding the staged readings, attendees can also enjoy Press Play events such as a site-specific dance performance and an indie gaming event. Community Artist Labs offer opportunities to build skills in adapting works of fiction, theatricalizing found text, and creating devised theater (attendance for labs is by lottery).

Polaris Dance Theatre celebrates the joy of movement a previous JAW: A Playwrights Festival.

A stage manager makes edits on the fly to the script for Jason Wells’ “The North Plan,” part of the Big Weekend of readings at Portland Center Stage’s JAW: a Playwright’s Festival. (Photo credit, Patrick Weishampel)

The cast of The Huntsmen rehearses their staged reading for JAW: A Playwrights Festival. (Photo credit, Patrick Weishampel.)

Here’s the complete 2017 JAW FESTIVAL SCHEDULE: 

FRIDAY, JULY 28, 2017

All Day        Press Play Event: ZoomUganda Display                                                                      Studio Lobby

8:00 p.m.    JAW KICKOFF: Readings of Short Plays by JAW Promising Playwrights           Ellyn Bye Studio 

SATURDAY, JULY 29, 2017

All Day        Press Play Event: ZoomUganda Display                                                             Studio Lobby

12:30 p.m.  Community Artist Lab: New Worlds for Old Stories                                              Admission by Lottery

3:00 p.m.    Press Play Event: Street Dance Battle with Michael Galen                                   Main Lobby

4:00 p.m.    STAGED READING: TINY HOUSES BY STEFANIE ZADRAVEC                      U.S. Bank Main Stage

6:00 p.m.    Press Play Event: PIGSquad Pop-up Gaming                                                       Main Lobby and Mezzanine

8:00 p.m.    STAGED READING: TESTMATCH BY KATE ATTWELL                                    U.S. Bank Main Stag

SUNDAY, JULY 30, 2017

All Day        Press Play Event: ZoomUganda Display                                                             Studio Lobby

12:00 p.m.  Community Artist Lab: Theatricalizing Found Text                                               Admission by Lottery

12:00 p.m.  Community Artist Lab: Creating Devised Performance                                        Admission by Lottery

3:20 p.m.    Press Play Event: Rachel Slater and Sara Parker’s Site-Specific Dance            Main Lobby

4:00 p.m.    STAGED READING: IN OLD AGE BY MFONISO UDOFIA                               U.S. Bank Main Stage

7:00 p.m.    Press Play Event: A Little Bit Off’s Clown Performance                                       Main Lobby and Mezzanine

8:00 p.m.    STAGED READING: SMALL STEPS BY BRIANDANIEL OGLESBY               U.S. Bank Main Stage

2017 JAW STAGED READINGS

Staged readings are free and open to the public. No reservations required. Seating is general admission. Post-show conversations with the playwrights are held after most readings. Please Note: Staged readings are part of the play development process and do NOT represent completed scripts.

TINY HOUSES

BY STEFANIE ZADRAVEC

SATURDAY, JULY 29, 4:00 P.M.

On July 17, 2014, Malaysian Flight MH-17 rained down upon a tiny, war-torn Eastern Ukraine village after being targeted by a surface-to-air missile launched by pro-Russian Separatists. Bodies and objects alike become fodder for those trying to escape the circumstances in which they were born. Tiny Houses is a comic riff on Pandora’s Box that explores the ripple effect on several women who suddenly realize they can disrupt the status quo.

TESTMATCH
BY KATE ATTWELL
SATURDAY, JULY 29, 8:00 P.M.

Present day: A rained-out women’s cricket match between India and England leaves tensions bare and, as the rainy day drones relentlessly on, no one can play nice anymore. Then: The British East India Company rules in 18th century West Bengal, as two members of the Royal Cricket Team, ardent players of the game, debate the rules of engagement, the problem of the women, the trouble with mosquitoes, all against the backdrop of a country that they are destroying through famine. And before that? … Testmatch is a new play about women’s sports, mangos, cricket, and the ever-present legacy of colonialism, written for an all-female cast.


IN OLD AGE

BY MFONISO UDOFIA

SUNDAY, JULY 30, 4:00 P.M.

Isolated within the walls of her derelict New England home and suffering the residual pain of years of abuse, an ancient woman, Abasiama Ufot, makes an unlikely spiritual connection with an elder stranger, Azell Abernarthy. Just as life takes a new turn, Abasiama and Azell learn the true nature of love and forgiveness.

SMALL STEPS

BY BRIANDANIEL OGLESBY

SUNDAY, JULY 30, 8:00 P.M.
Finally fed up with the bot-and-disappointment-filled world of online gay dating, Skip Powers volunteers to go to Mars. And NASA says … “you’ll do.” This is a comedy that traverses 50 million miles and a million years.

JAW PRESS PLAY EVENTS

Press Play events engage JAW audiences before and after staged readings.

ZOOMUGANDA DISPLAY

JULY 28-30, ALL DAY, STUDIO LOBBY

ZoomUganda shares the journey of 12 girls given 12 cameras and 24 hours in which to tell their own stories through their own lenses. Directed by Portland-based Julie Resnick, ZoomUganda empowered its participants to stand in the centers of their world and share their perspectives. Sponsored by local nonprofit the Harambee Centre, which connects people in the US with the peoples and cultures of the African continent. 

IN THE GROOVE: STREET DANCE BATTLE

WITH MICHAEL GALEN AND AN ALL STAR CREW

SATURDAY, JULY 29, 3:00 P.M., MAIN LOBBY

A crowd-judged, 5v5, all-star street dance battle showcasing different styles of street and club dance. Michael ‘MANTIS’ Galen is a versatile freestyle dancer, teacher and choreographer who has trained, battled, performed and taught all over the West Coast and Brazil. Galen’s specialties include B-boyin’, House, Locking, Stepping, and Hip Hop party dancing.

PIGSQUAD POP-UP

SATURDAY, JULY 29, 6:00 P.M., MAIN LOBBY AND MEZZANINE

Try out board games and computer games created by local designers. The Portland Indie Game Squad is dedicated to supporting the health and continued expansion of game developers and enthusiast communities in the Pacific Northwest and online. 

RACHEL SLATER AND SARA PARKER

SITE-SPECIFIC DANCE PERFORMANCE

SUNDAY, JULY 30, 3:20 P.M., MAIN LOBBY

Portland-based dancers Rachel Slater and Sara Parker have created a site-specific dance performance for The Armory’s Main Lobby. Rachel Slater’s credits include work with Tere Mathern, Franco Nieto, Tracey Durbin, Jim McGinn and Éowyn Emerald & Dancers. Sara Parker has recently performed with artists such as Tere Mathern, Netta Yerushalmy, Pamela Geber-Handman and Sharee Lane.  

A LITTLE BIT OFF’S CLOWN PERFORMANCE

SUNDAY, JULY 30, 7:00 P.M., MAIN LOBBY AND MEZZANINE

A Little Bit Off will bring their acrobatic clowning and physical comedy talents to JAW with a part-devised, part-improvised clown performance. Co-founded by Amica Hunter and David Cantor, A Little Bit Off began as a theatrical collaboration between two acrobatic clowns dedicated to bringing wonder and laughter to the audiences of the world. 

COMMUNITY ARTIST LABS

Admission is free but attendance is limited and determined by random lottery. To enter the lottery email [email protected] by July 25 with a list of the lab(s) that are of interest. 

NEW WORLDS FOR OLD STORIES: AN INTRODUCTION TO ADAPTATION

WITH LITERARY MANAGER BENJAMIN FAINSTEIN

SATURDAY, JULY 29, 12:30 P.M. TO 3:00 P.M., ATTENDANCE BY LOTTERY

This playful lab will steer participants through a crash course of adapting works of fiction for the stage. Through a series of creative activities, attendees will learn what questions to ask themselves when building fictional worlds and explore the delicate art of changing the shape of someone else’s work with both enthusiasm and ethics. This lab welcomes imaginative writers of all experience levels.

THEATRICALIZING FOUND TEXT: OR, ADAPTING A STORY THROUGH MOVEMENT

WITH JAW DIRECTOR MARGOT BORDELON

SUNDAY, JULY 30, 12:00 P.M. TO 3:00 P.M., ATTENDANCE BY LOTTERY

In this lab, participants will read a short story and investigate how the piece might live theatrically. A series of small group physical exercises will explore — both literally and abstractly — the characters, relationships and environments in the story. Attendees will experiment with how much language is necessary to communicate the ideas of the piece and how much can be communicated through movement. Participants should come ready to move. 

CREATING DEVISED PERFORMANCE

WITH JAW PLAYWRIGHT KATIE ATTWELL

SUNDAY, JULY 30, 12:00 P.M. TO 3:00 P.M., ATTENDANCE BY LOTTERY

This lab explores the collaborative theater making process: making work on your feet, together. Participants will look at ways to create theater that is built collaboratively, from practical work in the room and not necessarily from the page first. Participants will explore “sources” — Where can a piece of theater come from? Anywhere? Yes! — and how to turn those sources into something for the stage. Space, movement, objects, text, identity, speech, silence, and found materials will be considered as equal fodder for creating work. Come dressed comfortably and ready to move — at least a little. 

JAW: A PLAYWRIGHTS FESTIVAL

Since launching in 1999, JAW: A Playwrights Festival has created a space for playwrights to have complete creative control and the resources to work on whatever they want to develop in their scripts. Each year, playwrights are chosen from nearly 200 submissions nationwide to collaborate with directors, dramaturgs, actors and other theater professionals from across the United States. Of the 76 plays that have received workshops at the festival, 68% have gone on to receive world premiere productions at regional theaters, including New York Theater Workshop, Steppenwolf Theatre, Berkeley Repertory Theatre and Portland’s own Third Rail Repertory Theater. Thirteen JAW plays have received fully staged productions at Portland Center Stage at The Armory, giving Portland a strong national reputation for not only incubating new work, but helping to see that work to successful fruition.

JAW COMPANY

Portland Center Stage at The Armory’s Associate Artistic Director Rose Riordan is the JAW Festival Director. Joining her are JAW Festival Co-Producers Kelsey Tyler and Brandon Woolley; JAW Literary Manager Benjamin Fainstein; JAW Festival Company Manager Will Cotter; Education and Community Programs Associate Clara-Liis Hillier; Education and Community Programs Coordinator Eric Werner; and the hardworking staff and volunteers of Portland Center Stage at The Armory who bring their talents and energies to JAW each year.

LOCATION: All JAW events happen at The Armory, 128 NW Eleventh Ave., Portland, Ore., 97209

ACCESSIBILITY: Portland Center Stage at The Armory is committed to making its performances and facilities accessible to all patrons. Learn more at http://www.pcs.org/access/.

AGE RECOMMENDATION: Most JAW events are recommended for high school age and up. 

PORTLAND CENTER STAGE AT THE ARMORY

Portland Center Stage at The Armory is the largest theater company in Portland and among the top 20 regional theaters in the country. Established in 1988 as a branch of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, the company became independent in 1994 and has been under the leadership of Artistic Director Chris Coleman since 2000. Around 150,000 visitors attend The Armory annually to enjoy a mix of classical, contemporary and world premiere productions, along with a variety of high quality education and community programs. 11 productions are offered each season, in addition to roughly 400 community events created — in partnership with 170+ local organizations and individuals — to serve the diverse populations in the city. As part of its dedication to new play development, the company has produced 23 world premieres and presents an annual new works festival, JAW: A Playwrights Festival. Home to two theaters, The Armory was the first building on the National Register of Historic Places, and the first performing arts venue, to achieve a LEED Platinum rating. 

JAW: A Playwrights Festival is supported in part by The Kinsman Foundation, Oregon Cultural Trust, National Endowment for the Arts, Don and Mary Blair, and Ronnie S. Lacroute. Additional support is provided by Regional Arts & Culture Council and Oregon Arts Commission. Portland Center Stage at The Armory’s 2017-2018 season is funded in part by Season Superstars Tim and Mary Boyle, and Lead Corporate Champion Umpqua Bank. Further support comes from Season Sponsors: Regional Arts and Culture Council, The Wallace Foundation and Oregon Arts Commission, a state agency funded by the state of Oregon and the National Endowment for the Arts. Mark Spencer Hotel is the official hotel partner. Portland Center Stage at The Armory was selected as a participant of the Wallace Foundation’s Building Audiences for Sustainability Initiative, a four-year effort with a nationwide cohort of 26 performing arts organizations. 

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