As Portland Center Stage at The Armory celebrates their 30th anniversary this season, they are particularly proud of one area that has continued to grow throughout our history: new play development. Their annual playwrights festival, JAW, has given them a national reputation as an incubator for new work. They’ve also produced a number of world premieres, including the two productions running on their stages right now. Astoria: Part Two and Kodachrome will be their 25th and 26th world premieres to date! Here’s a look at some of the highlights of their new play development.
20 Years of JAW
JAW: A Playwrights Festival was launched in 1999 in collaboration with New York Theater Workshop. As JAW alum Sash Bischoff put it: “JAW encourages and enables the creation of the theater of tomorrow. What could possibly be more exciting?” JAW, which originally stood for Just Add Water, has nurtured 82 plays, including Adam Szymkowicz’s Kodachrome, which was workshopped in 2015. Adam called the festival an “oasis chock full of the kindest, smartest, and most talented people in the American theater,” and praised it for offering “the room and freedom to explore whatever path I thought was necessary for the process.” This summer we’ll celebrate 20 years of JAW. Free public readings will be offered July 27 – 29.
Fostering the Next Generation
Our Visions and Voices program stokes the fires of the next generation of theater artists through playwriting and performance residencies offered at local high schools. Thousands of students have penned new scripts with the support of Visions and Voices, including one who sent us a particularly heartfelt thank you letter: “I didn’t know what I was worth until [Visions and Voices] came to our school … thank you for coming into my life at such an early age and showing me that I should go for what I want, because it’s not out of my reach.” Eight schools were served this year. A free public showcase of the student work will be presented May 21 – 22.
Comfort and Joy
The company’s very first commissioned world premiere, Comfort and Joy, debuted in 1996. Written by Jack Heifner, it offered a touching tale of a gay couple whose holiday celebrations turned to chaos with the arrival of some unexpected guests.
Taking the Studio by Storm
In 2009, the world premiere of Storm Large’s autobiographical musical Crazy Enough became the longest-running production in the company’s history. It ran for nearly five months in the Ellyn Bye Studio — a total of 143 performances!
A Night with Janis Joplin had its world premiere at The Armory in 2011. It went on to play the Cleveland Playhouse, Arena Stage, Pasadena Playhouse and Milwaukee Repertory Theater before landing on Broadway, where Mary Bridget Davies was nominated for a Tony Award for her performance.
Breaking Box Office Records
Last year, Astoria: Part One became the best-selling world premiere in the company’s history. It was also the best-selling show ever produced in the January/February time slot and the first play to reach its sales goal by opening night. Proof that Portland audiences love world premieres just as much as we do!
for coming out to support new work!