PCS Blog

Throwback Thursday: Adam Bock at PCS

Posted by Claudie Fisher | 06 March 2014

A Small Fire marks the U.S. Bank Main Stage debut of an Adam Bock play at PCS, which seems fitting for a playwright who has certainly become part of the Portland Center Stage family. The originality and deep humanity of Bock’s characters captured our interests back in 2005 at JAW. With exciting things to come for Bock – including a new play commissioned by PCS – it’s a perfect time to look back at the highlights of PCS’s history with this celebrated playwright.


Adam Bock, Photo by Patrick Weishampel.

2005: The Thugs at JAW

Selected from over 200 scripts to be presented at JAW, Adam Bock’s tale of Tedium and Terror in a law firm marked his debut with PCS. The script later earned Bock an Obie Award. Rose Riordan directed the staged reading at JAW, marking the beginning of a fruitful collaboration between Rose and Adam.

In a later playbill, Rose recalled her initial reaction to Adam’s writing:

"I read The Thugs by Adam Bock and was struck by his ability to capture the way people talk. Sounds easy enough but is, in fact, incredibly difficult to master. This insight into language creates a sound for a character, a way of thinking and a blueprint for behavior. The way into an Adam Bock play is through the dialogue. It is musical, mysterious and one non sequitur after another that leads us through the story in a unique, Adam Bock kind of way. I had the great fortune to actually workshop The Thugs with Adam for JAW: A Playwrights Festival and this experience confirmed for me the relevance of his work and his innate understanding of human behavior."

2007: The Official World Premiere of The Thugs

In 2007, The Thugs had its world premiere in the Ellyn Bye Studio, winning four Drammy Awards. Prior to the opening, PCS dramaturge Mead Hunter sat down with Adam to discuss re-emerging themes in his work.

Adam: I am fascinated by the moment when people wake up and notice things that have been sitting in front of them forever. Unseen love. Heartbreaking impossibility. An unfulfilled need to talk back. The moment we awaken to the reality of our lives – which I think we do over and over throughout our lives – is shocking and unnerving and scary and exhilarating. How do we cope with that moment, which can impact the rest of our lives? Do we deny it and fight to remain asleep? Who do we go to for help? Can we even voice it?

The temps at the law firm of Tedium and Terror: Sharonlee McLean (Mercedes), Val Landrum (Daphne) and Kelsey Tyler (Bart) in The Thugs, 2007. Photo by Owen Carey.

2010: The Receptionist

Adam's "poisoned Post-it note of a play" (The New York Times) was initially staged at CoHo Productions in 2008 and then remounted at PCS in the Ellyn Bye Studio. The Oregonian called this dark office comedy "must-see theater."

Sharonlee McLean (Beverly) and Laura Faye Smith (Lorraine) in The Receptionist, 2010.
Photo by Owen Carey.

2012: San Diego at JAW and a New Play Commission

Adam was back in Portland for the JAW Festival in 2012, this time to develop San Diego, a comedy of sorts set on a San Diego pier about a reluctant mother and her friends. That same year, PCS announced a new program for play development and awarded Adam a two-year commission to write a new script.

Rose Riordan and Adam Bock at a reading during JAW, 2012.

2014: A Small Fire on the U.S. Main Stage

This production offers the unique opportunity to watch one of Adam’s finished works while he is currently in residence at PCS working on a new script.

Check out Oregon ArtsWatch's interview with Adam.


2014 (Fall): The Typographer's Dream

For our 2014-2015 Ellyn Bye Studio season opener, we are producing The Typographer's Dream - Adam's personal favorite of his own work. Like The Receptionist and The Thugs, Adam described this show as continuing to explore the idea of "Are we defined by our work?"

Read more about our upcoming2014-15  Season.


We’d love to hear your thoughts on the show! Find us on Facebook and Twitter: #pcs_smallfire


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