JAW

DramaWatch Weekly: On the Proscenium

Portland Shakes loose a few new plays, Staged! welcomes some alumni home, and new shows open in Portland and Ashland

Michael Mendelson long has been one of Portland’s busiest and most accomplished actors, but even by his standards he has a packed calendar for the coming theater season. He’ll head east to the Midwest later this month to help Nebraska Rep kick off its 2018-19 season, directing David Javerbaum’s divine comedy An Act of God (with Trisha Miller, Mendelson’s co-star in Artists Rep’s 2011 God of Carnage, taking the role of God this time). Once back in town, he’ll be in a string of promising Artists Rep showsSmall Mouth Sounds, Everybody (by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, whose brilliant An Octoroon featured Mendelson last fall) and A Doll’s House, Part 2. He has work in the offing for Profile Theatre, as well.

And — oh, yeah — he heads his own company, too. So before all of that, there’s Portland Shakespeare Project and this weekend’s fourth annual Proscenium Live Festival of New Work, a four-night series of free performances.

Michael Mendelson — in mogul mode from Craig Wright’s “Mistakes Were Made” at Artists Rep in 2013 — has his plate full with acting, directing and leading Portland Shakes. Photo: Owen Carey

Produced in conjunction with the literary journal Proscenium, the festival is something of a family affair. Proscenium is the work of brothers Steve and Billy Rathje, whose mother Karen Rathje is managing director of Portland Shakes and audience services manager for Artists Rep, where the festival will be held. Steve Rathje also is an actor, appearing here in Patrick Wohlmut’s Patchwork Dreams.

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DramaWatch Weekly: time to JAW

Portland Center Stage's new-plays fest hits its stride. Plus: Isaac Lamb on gender and "The Music Man," Rene Denfeld on "Glass Managerie"

Summer stinks.

Sure, the long days are great, but the summer sun is a hot-tempered tyrant. There’s no good basketball to watch. And maybe worst of all, there’s not as much theater to see.

Ah, but then there’s JAW.

Portland Center Stage’s annual playwrights festival is an oasis in the (relative) desert of the summer performance calendar. Originally called Just Add Water/West, it started in 1999 as an offshoot of a similar program at the New York Theater Workshop. Over the years, it has served as an incubator of works by such renowned playwrights as Itamar Moses (Outrage, Celebrity Row), Lauren Gunderson (Parts They Call Deep), Adam Bock (The Thugs, San Diego), Jordan Harrison (Act a Lady, Futura), Constance Congdon (Paradise Street), Marc Acito (Birds of a Feather), Will Eno (Middletown, Gnit), Kimberly Rosenstock (99 Ways to Fuck a Swan), Dan O’Brien (Body of an American), and Yusef El Guindi (Threesome).

This year’s JAW, ready to roll. Photo: Portland Center Stage at the Armory

As useful as JAW is for writers — giving each a director, a dramaturg, a cast, and more than a week for concentrated rehearsals and revisions — its a boon as well for theater fans when it gets around to what PCS calls “the Big Weekend.” That’s when the public gets let into the process for a series of free staged readings, along with other performances and events.
Because the plays being presented are still being developed, there’s not much in the way of production history or reviews to inform our expectations, but you can read brief descriptions of the plays and playwright bios at the PCS website. In any case, the spirit of discovery — both in plays well-polished or those still finding their form — is one of the great pleasures of JAW, along with the lively lobby conversations between readings.

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DanceWatch Weekly: Moving at JAW

This week the dance action is at a theater festival

It’s another warm and sunny weekend here in Portland, which makes going out to see performances really easy compared to the our rainy wintery months—or maybe not if you aren’t a heat person. Personally, I wish summer would last another six months, but I digress. Let’s talk dance.

On Sunday you can catch contemporary Portland dance artists Sara Parker and Rachel Slater activating the Armory lobby in the Pearl with their new site-specific dance work Watchers of the Wild Sky as part of Portland Center Stage’s JAW playwright festival.

Sara Parker and Rachel Slater in “Watchers of the Wild Sky.” Photo courtesy of Rachel Slater and Sara Parker.

The collaborative work is inspired by the energy and the physical materials in the space, and explores themes of softness, subtlety, hysteria, shadowing, and strength, according to the email exchange I had with Parker.

JAW gives time, space, and resources to playwrights with new scripts (a great idea for dance as well: Anyone?), and is interested in creating intersectionality with other arts communities and growing the footprint of the festival by interspersing works of other performance genres within the festival. And it’s enjoyable for the audience, too.

Dance artist Michael “Mantis” Galen. Photo courtesy of JAW.

In addition to Parker and Slater, the festival will include In the Groove, a street dance battle with Michael “Mantis” Galen and an all-star crew, plus a circus performance by artists Amica Hunter and David Cantor from A Little Bit Off. Check the JAW website for the complete performance schedule and performers.

That’s it for dance this weekend in Portland. Short and sweet. Enjoy!

Performances this week

JAW-A Playwright Festival
Featuring dance works by Sara Parker, Rachel Slater, Michael “Mantis” Galen, Amica Hunter, David Cantor and more!
July 28-30
Portland Center Stage at The Armory, 128 NW 11th Ave.

Upcoming Performances

August
August 3-5, Galaxy Dance Festival, Hosted by Polaris Dance Theatre
August 3-20, Gypsy, Broadway Rose Theatre Company
August 9, Suspended Moment, Meshi Chavez, Yukiyo Kawano, Allison Cobb, Lisa DeGrace, and Stephen Miller
August 11-13, JamBallah Northwest ’17, Hosted by JamBallah NW
August 13, India Festival 2017, India Cultural Association of Portland
August 19, Laya-Bhavam: An amalgamation and importance of Rhythm in Dance, presented by Sarada Kala Nilayam
August 24-September 6, Portland Dance Film Fest, Directed by Kailee McMurran, Tia Palomino, and Jess Evans
August 24-October 8, Kurios: Cabinet Of Curiosities, Cirque Du Soleil
September
August 25-September 3, Where To Wear What Hat, WolfBird Dance
September 7-17, TBA, Portland Institute For Contemporary Art

ArtsWatch Weekly: Banging the can

David Lang's "Match Girl" opera, JAW snaps open, Chamber Music Northwest's race to the finish, Brian Cox chats, art and science meet

Poor little match girl, and chamber music too: David Lang, cofounder of the effusive Bang On a Can and 2008 Pulitzer Prize-winner for The Little Match Girl Passion, is all over the Portland cultural calendar this week.

Damien Geter, Cree Carrico, and Nicole Mitchell in David Lang’s “The Difficulty of Crossing a Field” at Portland Opera. Photo: Cory Weaver

Portland Opera’s shift to a mainly summer season concludes with a double bill of Lang’s contemporary one-acts Match Girl and The Difficulty of Crossing a Field, opening Friday in the intimate Newmark Theatre. And his music will be on the bill Thursday and Friday at Chamber Music Northwest. Get the lowdown on Lang and his fascinating career from ArtsWatch’s Brett Campbell in his profile David Lang: From iconoclast to eminence.

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