There is new, innovative, and engagaing theater happening in Portland Oregon. And a lot of it happened this weekend at Portland Center Stage’s annual JAW (Just Add Water) Playwrights Festival. The festival matches local theater talent with some of the most prominent of emerging playwrights in the country, to collaborate on a series of readings on the Amory’s main stage. The festival also includes brand new, devised work, created by some of Portland’s up-and-coming theater companies and the whole weekend is a sure fire chance to shmooze with anyone and everyone in the Portland theater community.
Have you been checking out JAW this weekend? Who did you rub elbows with? What do you think about new theater being created in Portland? Share your thoughts in the comments below and follow me after the jump to read more about my impressions of one of Portland's most intriguing festivals....
From what I can tell, the weekend has been a big success. I wasn’t able to make any of Saturday’s festivities (I had a wedding to go to), but I hear that the houses were packed and Will Eno’s new show Gnit was easily the must-see show of the weekend. Rats.
Oh well, I saw what I thought to be a fantastic reading of A Maze, from emerging playwright Rob Handel. The show was smart, poetic, dramatically engaging and thought provoking. And what’s more it kept my undivided attention even with the actors confined to their action being behind music stands where they kept their scripts. The play might need some cuts for the final draft to be brilliant on the whole, but keep your eyes on Rob Handel theater kids. This guy has a voice and some good stuff going on.
I was also able to catch some of the more interactive/off the wall festivities this weekend. Upon leaving the the theater I was greeted by several theatrical installations that were already in motion throughout the Armory’s lobby. These were setup by Eugenia Wood and Megan Ward as part of what they are calling Famished/The Works, “an interacitve installing concerning how and why we eat". The installations included, a Sunday dinner station where you could sit and discuss with fellow strangers memories of family dinner. There was also a video confession booth where attendees of JAW 2010 could tell all their gritty secrets about food and eating. And then there was my favorite, Our Lady of Insatiable Hunger that featured Portland darling Jessica Wallenfels, in a glamourous white gown, and surround by mountains of food, that we as participants in the interactive piece could feed to her. Needless to say, it got pretty ugly. Hats off to Wood and Ward for going balls to the wall with their vision. The Armory is a bit of mess right now as I'm bringing this post to a close. But people seem to be having a wonderful time at the theater.
Another devised piece by Polaris Dance Theatre is going to be starting in about a half hour. In the neighborhood? Think you could make it in time? And then the final show of the weekend, the much buzzed-about Jason Wells play The North Plan, is starting at 8 pm. So come on down. You still have a chance to check out JAW 2010.