Portland Center Stage’s 2011 production of The Body of an American
Portland Center Stage’s 2011 production of The Body of an American

The plays that come out of Portland Center Stage’s JAW playwrights’ festival aren’t just amateur impulses. Many of the scripts given readings here later transition to big-name productions across the country. But Rose Riordan, JAW’s director, is famously mum about which of the six or so scripts (drawn from more than 200 entries) will be the season’s standout. So we revisited previous stars to give you an idea of what you might miss if you skip this free fest.

JAW FESTIVAL
July 27–29 • Free
Gerding Theater

• Naomi Iizuka’s Concerning Strange Devices, from JAW 2009, explored issues of erotic attraction and sexual exploitation between East and West with a premiere at Berkeley Rep. The San Francisco Chronicle called it a “scintillating ... multifaceted puzzle of a play.”

• Will Eno workshopped Middletown in 2009 and Gnit in 2010. The former, a play on Thornton Wilder’s Our Town, opened Off Broadway in 2010. The New York Times said it “glimmers from start to finish.” (Portland audiences can decide on their own when Third Rail Rep stages it next summer.) The latter, a play on Ibsen’s almost unmountable epic dramatic poem, recently premiered at the prestigious Humana Festival in Louisville, Kentucky, also to glowing reviews.

• Dan O’Brien’s The Body of an American, about a playwright and a war journalist, was workshopped at JAW in 2011, premiered at PCS last fall, and won O’Brien the inaugural $50,000 Edward M. Kennedy Prize for historical drama in February.