Back in November, Portland Center Stage told me that they would no longer be extending press tickets to the Mercury, explaining that they were dissatisfied with the coverage they'd been receiving from us.

At the time, we promised to continue to review shows at PCS by purchasing tickets on our own. Fast forward a few months, and that hasn't actually happened yet, because... Well, it's kind of like in grade school, when everyone but you is invited to a slumber party, even the girl who always smells like egg salad; and though you weren't invited, your mom tells you to stop by to drop off a birthday present. And you don't really want to do it, because you feel bad you weren't invited—and besides, there are a ton of other fun parties that night—but you also feel like you should, because... the girl has cancer, or something. (I'll keep working on that metaphor.)

It's time to get over it, of course; next season I plan to assign freelance reviews of at least a few shows, and I might sneak in myself to their production of Adam Bock's A Small Fire—Bock's The Receptionist at PCS was tremendous. But in the meantime, there's JAW, PCS' annual playwright's festival. In order to understand how I feel about JAW, please now imagine that our imaginary birthday party involves a pony ride to a bouncy castle full of puppies and Pixy Stix.

Every summer, a small group of playwrights are hand-selected to spend a week at PCS workshopping a new play. At the end of the two weeks, they show off their work in staged readings at the Gerding. It's free, the plays are well-curated, and it's a chance to see cutting-edge new work before it officially debuts. Plus, scripts that debut at JAW are often fully produced in town later on, giving a rare opportunity to see how a script might evolve. It's too good not to cover, and this year's lineup looks as promising as ever.

All shows are free and at the Gerding Theater at Portland Center Stage, 128 NW 11th.

complex by Dominic Finocchiaro, Fri July 26, 4 pm: A fun-sounding dark comedy about an apartment complex where residents start turning up dead in "ever more gruesome ways."

The Ocean All Around Us by David Lavine, Fri July 26, 8 pm: A young artist struggles to rebuild after his paintings are destroyed in a fire; this play is described as "disconcertingly erotic." Aww yeah.

Threesome by Yussef El Guindi, Sat July 27, 4 pm: A couple tries to solve their relationship troubles by having a threesome.

Mai Dang Lao by David Jacobi, Sat July 27 at 8 pm: After a McDonalds employee turns in her notice, she's accused of theft and the restaurant becomes a "war zone where self-improvement, denial, and foreign labor practices are used as weapons." (Metaphor alert!)

More details here.