Artistic Director Risa Brainin talked with Jim Sirianni about her creative process
as a director and how UCSB kept theater alive for its students and faculty
with LAUNCH PAD's innovative "Alone, Together" Zoom Festival which live-
streamed on June 6, 2020. (Click on the image above.)

Featured in American Theatre magazine as an innovative model of new play development in the U.S., LAUNCH PAD is a high-tech lab for playwrights-in-residence, UCSB theater students, faculty and guest artists. Led by founding Artistic Director Risa Brainin, new plays are developed each year. With a mix of student and professional actors, LAUNCH PAD is collaboration and experimentation in action.

The goal for these extended residencies is three-fold:

  • To intimately expose serious theater students to the working processes of people
    who write plays for a living.
  • To provide a safe and fertile environment for artists to boldly explore new ideas.
  • To establish UC Santa Barbara as a magnet for the creation of new work.

While professional theaters are not always able to take a risk on fully producing new work, LAUNCH PAD offers the playwright the chance to work on the play in a safe environment with students who are deeply engaged and hungry to learn how this process works. Each academic year, one play is developed as a Preview Production. These Preview Productions are fully realized, allowing the playwright to see their work in three dimensions.

“What Risa Brainin has created at UCSB is entirely rare, but extremely necessary, to the ecology of the American Theatre. By fostering relationships between professional writers and her students, Risa is developing a new generation of advocates for the new play, the contemporary voice, and the inherent value of collaboration. Simultaneously, she is offering some of the most talented playwrights in the country a home in which to safely explore, and providing some of the best production values that exist in the theatre today -- in both the professional and academic spheres.”

- Liz Engelman, Dramaturg and Director of Tofte Lake Center, MN

Since its inception in 2005, LAUNCH PAD has produced fifteen plays by distinguished playwrights:

  • What Martha Did by Enid Graham
  • The Watsons Go To Birmingham - 1963 by Cheryl L. West
  • Staging the Daffy Dame by Anne García-Romero
  • Bernhard by Lynn Rosen
  • We Want the Funk, a rustbelt lullaby on the one! by Idris Goodwin
  • The Talented Ones by Yussef El Guindi
  • Untitled IV by Ruth Markofsky by Alison Tatlock
  • Appoggiatura by James Still
  • Entangled by Lila Rose Kaplan
  • Biederman's Match by Beau Willimon (book), Michelle DiBucci (music), and Portia Kamons (lyrics)
  • Kingdom City by Sheri Wilner
  • La Niñera: The Nursemaid by Barbara Lebow
  • Plumfield, Iraq by Barbara Lebow
  • The Dinosaur Within by John Walch
  • Melancholy Play by Sarah Ruhl


(Jim Sirianni interview with Risa Brainin was recorded on May 5, 2020)