Isn’t “line-up” the same term they use on those crime shows when they’ve rounded up the usual suspects? Perhaps the parallel’s fitting, since JAWhas assembled an impressive rogue’s gallery for us again this year.
The festivities kick off with two Made in Oregon readings. One is by Sarah Jean Accuardi, an extremely talented Portlander who’s been studying at Northwestern in recent years(she just got her MFA there), where she was mentored by the brilliant Rebecca Gilman. Now she’s bringing it all back home. And guess what? She started out in JAW back in high school, as a Promising Playwright -- the first one! This writer is fiercely talented -- even if she doesn’t know how to spell dramaturg (kidding!).
And then we get a new play by Ebbe Roe Smith, Night Terrors. In a recent conversation with one of the nation’s finest playwrights (whom I won’t name because she’s pathologically private), she told me: “Ebbe is a genius. He really is. Nobody can write like he does.” So there you have it. No pressure, ERS.
By the way, Ebbe’s been in JAW before; his play Number Three was workshopped several years ago in the Festival and subsequently received its premiere right here in Cascadia, thanks to the far-reaching vision of Third Rail Rep. Ya, that’s an Owen Carey photo of the production above, with Tim True in the title role.
Made in Oregon presents on July 17 & 18, and is followed by the “Festival Weekend Playwrights” on July 24-25. Conspicuous among the guest writers is theater trailblazer Will Eno, whose play Middletown moved us and startled us during JAW 2009. His new play, Gnit, is based on Ibsen's bizarre epic poem Peer Gynt. Which means we can expect revelation, despair, hilarity, horror and existential self-actualization. This will be a must-see.
I’m equally excited about hearing Sam Gregory’s play Necessity. As one of Portland’s most respected theater figures (and, ironically, one of its best-kept secrets), Sam has been quietly crafting elegant, language-is-a-virus plays for many years now; a new Sam play is always an event. Color me partial -- Sam’s a former member of my much-missed playwriting cabal, PlayGroup -- but I believe Necessity is one of his best works ever.
Jason Wells I don’t know, but his impressive background has certainly got me curious. And Rob Handel is an exciting, innovative wordsmith who is helping shake up not just playwriting itself but the very environment that produces it; he’s a founding member of the writing collective 13P.
As always, no need for tickets at JAW (it’s free) and you can leave the tux at home -- it’s an informal, script-in-hand process that gives you a peek into where playwriting’s headed nationally and how dramatists are responding to the “interesting times” we’re living in. See you there.