LAUNCH PAD invites professional playwrights to join the UC Santa Barbara community as artists-in-residence. The collaboration between a team of undergraduate students, professional guest artists, and the playwrights provides the experiential ground for seasoned and novice artists alike to participate in the creative process as it's happening.
During each academic year, LAUNCH PAD produces one Preview Production of a new play. While professional theaters are not always able to take a risk on fully producing new work, LAUNCH PAD offers the playwright the opportunity to work on the play in a safe environment with professional guest arts and students who are deeply engaged and hungry to learn. Preview Productions are fully designed and realized, allowing the playwright to see their work in three dimensions.
Through our Summer Reading Series: New Plays in Process, LAUNCH PAD provides four-day workshop intensives to visiting playwrights, guest artists, and students in the THTR 146 summer session. These kinds of workshops continue throughout the year as part of LAUNCH PAD Pop Ups. In this series, professional playwrights are invited to "pop in" for a short workshop and reading of their new play. And, through our BIPOC Reading Series which debuted in 2021, LAUNCH PAD brings together artists from near and far to amplify
BIPOC (Black, Indigeous, People of Color) artists.
Here's what the artists have to say...
...about LAUNCH PAD Preview Productions:
I feel so lucky to have had the chance to explore my play in the LAUNCHPAD program. I don't know of any other new play workshop opportunity that gives the writer the experience of developing her play all the way through readings to rehearsal to full production. Risa Brainin, through LAUNCHPAD, has created a nurturing and exciting environment that challenged my play to grow, while giving students the invaluable experience of helping to develop a new work.
~ Enid Graham, playwright, What Martha Did
“To be supported by this great program called LAUNCH PAD is such a glorious opportunity for a playwright. The students are a joy, and their questions thoughtful. A grand place to begin any new work’s first chapter.”
- Cheryl L. West, playwright, The Watsons Go To Birmingham -1963
"LAUNCH PAD is a unique opportunity to develop a new work gradually and consistently in a focused environment -- a beautiful sunny ocean side one at that! Risa Brainin, her colleagues and students encouraged me to take risks to keep honing and evolving my play. The attitude was alway "yes" oriented. The work ethic was off the charts as was the positivity and joy for new creation. I could not be more proud of the work we created together."
- Idris Goodwin, playwright, We Want the Funk
"From the start, Risa created an environment that fostered creative freedom, stimulation and absolute exhilaration for all involved. The students' work with me and Risa and their experience as participant-contributors to the birth of a new play was a pleasure for me and an eye-opening learning experience for them."
- Barbara Lebow, playwright, La Niñera: The Nursemaid, and Plumfield, Iraq.
"The play has advanced more in the three weeks I have been here than it had in the three years I had worked on it on my own; something I attribute to both the sublime talents of Risa and the cast, and to their indefatigable work ethic and collaborative spirit."
- Sheri Wilner, playwright, Kingdom City
"I loved my time working at UCSB with Risa and the students. It was a nurturing, playful environment where the playwright was listened to."
- Sarah Ruhl, playwright, Melancholy Play
"In my mind, this program creates the next generation of theatre artists, who are sensitive to the new play process and adept at helping draw out the writer's intent. LAUNCH PAD is one of the most exciting new models for new play development in the country, because it gives playwrights a much needed opportunity to shape and explore text in the crucible of production... This work is often too risky and time-consuming for professional theatre, and so playwrights are often developing plays in the rarefied air of a reading series or a staged reading/festival. At UCSB, they actually do the play."
- John Walch, playwright, The Dinosaur Within
"Risa Brainin asked me to work on her production of Sarah Ruhl's Melancholy Play, and through the auspices of the UCSB Theatre/Dance department, commissioned me to compose a score. It was a great experience to collaborate with her and her talented and devoted students, and that experience led to more collaborations with Sarah in Los Angeles, and more productions of the play using my score over the past few years in Seattle, Texas, Florida, Kentucky, Massachusetts, et al. For all of that, I am indebted to Risa. I am as ever admiring of the good work she does, and well aware how lucky the UCSB community is to have Risa and LAUNCH PAD under her leadership - and would be happy to offer whatever support that I can offer for the great experience it will offer to her students and to the arts in general."
- Michael Roth, composer, Melancholy Play
"LAUNCH PAD allows the play comes to life for the first time in a safe, genuinely collaborative environment. I loved working with a combination of accomplished theater artists such as Risa Brainin and Anne Torsiglieri, and their talented, dedicated students."
- Alison Tatlock, playwright, Untitled IV by Ruth Markofsky
"Risa Brainin is a virtuosic director and visionary. Working with her on Kingdom City and watching her usher in this powerful new play, was one of the most exciting theatrical experiences of my career as a professional actor. Any actor, whether student or professional, involved in one of her productions is in for a profound learning experience."
- Anne Torsiglieri, actress, Kingdom City, Entangled, Appoggiatura, Untitled IV by Ruth Markofsky
"LAUNCH PAD is a luxury offered to few playwrights: A workshop that also functions as a full-fledged production of your play. Drawing on all the departments and activities that are involved in a regular theater production: costume, set-design, lighting, props, several week rehearsal, lines learnt, full staging, posters, publicity, the works. And it’s still called a workshop so you can go premiere it at another theater. In the usual development process with a first draft, you might get a few days rehearsal and a staged reading; at LAUNCH PAD, they will roll the dice with that first draft and give you an all-hands-on-deck, full production instead. Needless to say the insights into your play that this offers you are invaluable and allows you to make the kind of changes that might come much later. Also, with all this dedicated work applied to your play, it concentrated my mind wonderfully knowing that while this was just a pass at my play — another draft in the development process (that no critic was going to review) — it also wasn’t, because it was a full production of my play! So I’d better get it right! It was just the right combination of feeling safe to explore (it’s a workshop), while being gently prodded to make the kind of decisions you have to make when you’re rehearsing for a “world premiere”.
- Yussef El Guindi, playwright, The Talented Ones
...about the LAUNCH PAD Summer Reading Series:
"Playwriting is a unique and strange craft, more akin to music composition. I need to know how my play sounds and feels, the rhythm and energy of the words and bodies and breath. LAUNCH PAD was a safe and focused environment to get to know my play."
~ Idris Goodwin, playwright, What's Best For The Chidlren
"LAUNCH PAD continues to excel in connecting some of the best artists with the next generation of theater professionals. Risa Brainin and her team are an absolute pleasure to work with!"
~ Daniel Andres Blanco, guest actor and UCSB alum, One Month Along
"I have been a distant fan of LAUNCH PAD since 2018 and I’m so honored to have the chance to learn and explore with students who operate as professionals. In addition, I had the opportunity to work with a director and playwright I always wanted to collaborate with!"
~ Austin Dean Ashford, guest actor, What's Best For The Children
"LAUNCH PAD helped take a play that I was having so much difficulty with and turned it into a piece of theatre that I am now proud to send anywhere for production. Through the collaborative environment, the welcoming individuals both creatively and administratively, and through an intensive development process, I feel my play has more fully realized its potential."
~ Franky D. Gonzalez, playwright, One Month Along
"The LAUNCH PAD Summer Reading Series is an exceptional program headed by an amazing mentor, friend, and artist, Risa Brainin. Students get the opportunity to bring a new story to life in a matter of days while collaborating with the playwright, director, and their own fellow peers."
~ Vishay Singh, guest actor and UCSB alum, Summer 2022
"LAUNCH PAD was the ideal setting to work with Cheryl L. West on deep revision of her play, Elocutia Does Pygmalion. We had a top-notch cast and a thoughtfully designed rehearsal process that supported Cheryl in trying out new ideas. Smart collaborators and an excellent support system. What more could you want?"
~ Christine Sumption, Dramaturg, Elocutia Does Pygmalion
"LAUNCH PAD's Summer Series allowed us to explore a side of the play (Shanghai by Linda Alper) that we never thought possible in such a short period of time. With the incredible combination of student and professional talent, we excavated the ever present relationship between language and physical imagery in the text-- discovering the crucial marriage of symbolism and the storytelling arc. The perspective we gained from the public facing reading was invaluable to our upcoming production."
~ Sara Rademacher, Director, Shanghai
"LAUNCH PAD is an exciting partner in new play development work. The opportunity to experience a play we've commissioned and been developing seen through new eyes is invaluable. Without a doubt, Shanghai will be a better play because of LAUNCH PAD!"
~ Luan Schooler, Director of New Works, Artists Repertory Theatre; Dramaturg, Shanghai
"Another amazing LAUNCH PAD. Honestly I was lost in the fog of Zoomisphere and although challenged with an unfamiliar process, I had a blast because every session was extremely well organized, efficient and more fun than anticipated. Even sitting alone so many miles away, I felt connected and supported."
~ Michael Keck, actor, Elocutia Does Pygmalion
"I love LAUNCH PAD's process of script, character and story development. Working directly with the playwright helps me, as an actor, have a deeper understanding of their intent."
- Shaunyce Omar, actor, Elocutia Does Pygmalion
"Professional actors can go their entire careers without the coveted opportunity to work with a playwright, developing and shaping a work in its infancy. That LAUNCH PAD provides this environment with different works over several weeks, bringing students and professionals together, forges it as an unparalleled pearl in the artistic world."
- Brian Harwell, actor, Three Sisters Brontë and What Martha Did
"We 'profesionals' may have gotten more from the students and the project itself than we gave. And the greatest beneficiary is, as it should be, the playwright: the fount from whom all beauty flows."
- Joe Spano, actor, Three Sisters Brontë
"I think LAUNCH PAD should be a requirement for all drama students. They explore script development in the same way that we do in the professional industry. Workshops require artists to learn quick and be able to adapt to an ever changing script. The LAUNCH PAD program at UCSB prepares their students for that process."
- Shaunyce Omar, actor, The Watsons Go To Birmingham -1963
"Getting to perform and collaborate through the LAUNCH PAD Summer Reading Series was such an illuminating experience as an artist. It was thrilling to have a seat at the table as we helped form the entire structure of the play, and working with director Julie Fishell and playwright Brian Otaño was incredibly rewarding."
- Diane Fidalgo, actor, The Myths We Made
"LAUNCH PAD was an extraordinary experience. Under the direction of Risa Brainin my play was given a remarkable scrutiny, analysis and public reading. Scenes were rigorously studied and actors excelled. I rewrote each evening with much enthusiasm."
- Joyce Carol Oates, playwright, Bad Touch
"The LP experience with my new play-in-process ("Gun Play") was richly, and excitingly, helpful to its continuing development. The student actors were fully committed to the process. Under Risa's direction, as I've seen her do with professional actors, they worked hard at understanding the characters and inhabited them fully. They joyfully questioned, commented, and experimented, all the while enlightening me about what I had written. Their participation in discussion with the audience at the reading was insightful and supportive. The play was clarified and enriched by that extraordinary week! And it continues to grow."
- Barbara Lebow, playwright, Gun Play
"Simply put, I had an amazing four days working with LAUNCH PAD. Risa and her students brought my big play-in-progress to life with passion and skill, and I was truly humbled by their hard and awe-inspiring work. They allowed me to really "see" my play for what it can and should be now. This is a gift they gave me and I can't thank them enough. I'm one lucky playwright."
- Jami Brandli, playwright, Soldadera!
"Many new play development programs have a format that they plug playwrights into. Not LAUNCH PAD. Risa Brainin asked me what I needed. And then gave it to me. I needed to see my play in motion. It’s a backstage farce. It has to walk and talk. Risa set up a couple of “prop doors” on the stage and the actors spent the week walking around while reading the script. It was just what the doctor ordered. I was able to do the kind of revisions that prepared the play for a production."
- Deborah Brevoort, playwright, Velvet Weapon
"LAUNCH PAD lived up to its name, and then some. It was just the residency I needed to launch this play. The students were a delight to work with and Risa and LAUNCH PAD gave me all the resources and support I needed to tackle the work. An added bonus: they are lovely people and Santa Barbara's a pretty gorgeous place to write a play. What good fortune. What a gift."
- KJ Sanchez, playwright, Too Much Water
"Our week at LAUNCH PAD this summer was invaluable. The students were dedicated, and Risa Brainin provided us with the space, time, and resources to explore new material. LAUNCH PAD is a true gift for theater-makers."
- Jenny Mercein, director, Too Much Water
"For me, the LAUNCH PAD Reading Series offered another crucial partnership with new plays: an intensive focus on a work in process with the commitment ON process. For my new play April 4, 1968: Before We Forgot How to Dream, we found imaginative ways to cast the play (across age, gender, and race) with a mix of students and faculty?. The public sharing was very well attended and I loved the sense from the audience that they were part of something special, something new, something never before heard before."
- James Still, playwright, April 4, 1968
“Any dedicated, focused opportunity to explore and develop a new piece is manna from the heavens to the creators. The summer LAUNCH PAD sessions — with actors, director and the all-important “test audience” — provide this invaluable experience."
- Brad Carroll, composer, "A" Train
"In 2016, I developed my play, Staging the Daffy Dame, in UCSB's LAUNCH PAD program under the remarkable direction of Risa Brainin. My collaboration with Risa, the UCSB students, faculty and professional actors, gave me so much inspiration, insight and guidance as I continue to shape my new play. LAUNCH PAD is a unique and valuable opportunity for professional playwrights to develop new work. LAUNCH PAD combines the power of academic and artistic rigor with the talents of undergraduate actors and seasoned professional actors, as all collaborate in a laboratory environment that emphasizes process, experimentation and discovery."
- Anne García-Romero, playwright, Staging the Daffy Dame
"Working with LAUNCH PAD last summer was one of the highlights of my academic year. To share the development of a new play with a group of playful and rigorous colleagues and students at the campus museum was nothing less than an education all by itself. Risa Brainin's detailed and flexible approach to collaboration fosters a creative environment in which people feels invited to express their opinions with great honesty and precision. Every voice matters. Anne García-Romero's piece was an exploration of contemporary issues of gender and ethnicity through the lens of a Golden Age "comedia" by Lope de Vega. As a scholar that works on Lope and Renaissance and Baroque drama, I welcomed this opportunity to combine theory and practice. The process was for me a rewarding marriage of academic research and aesthetic invention. This is the kind of experience our curriculum should always aspire to produce."
- Leo Cabranes-Grant, dramaturg, Staging the Daffy Dame
"The LAUNCH PAD summer program stretched me as a writer like nothing else. The daily rewrites were intense, but incredibly fruitful and rewarding since they were all based on powerful insights I had gained at rehearsals with the actors the evenings before. Risa and her crew were nothing short of amazing: I felt fully supported in my craft, and the end result, the public reading, felt really good. It was like the actors had been rehearsing for weeks instead of days! I highly recommend this course to any UCSB student, and I'm so glad my department is doing so much to promote new voices in American playwriting."
- Christina McMahon, playwright, STANDBY
...about the BIPOC Reading Series:
"I felt nurtured and supported throughout the week of development at LAUNCH PAD. The staff, administrators, students, alumni and guest artists were amazing to work with. I enjoyed every bit of it and was happy to build community with other BIPOC playwrights as we shared stories that resonated with the actors, dramaturgs, directors, and beyond. It was a fruitful environment and my play grew because of it.”
- Milta Ortiz, playwright, Pilar and Paloma
"It is liberating when a festival is geared toward the development of BIPOC playwrights' process over product. The biggest issue with getting one's work produced is often hampered by the lack of access to funded development; an opportunity not often afforded to non-white or emerging writers. The BIPOC Reading Series Festival is an instrumental platform to level out the playing field by amplifying the voices of powerful stories that are far more representative of the global landscape than the current American Theater suggests. And, to be a director at the ground level of a new play is just the icing on the cake."
- Sylvia Cervantes Blush, director, Pilar and Paloma
"I had a tremendous time connecting with the excellent UCSB actors and designers, and the warm, vibrant folx of LAUNCH PAD and Amplify. The week went by in a flash, but it was so invigorating to know that so much good work, connection, and development was able to happen in so little time. Brilliant plays, cracked open and enriched by a group of artists and organizers who so obviously love them."
Erica Terpening-Romeo, director, Lorena: A Tabloid Epic
"The time and support given at LAUNCH PAD was amazing. My team of collaborators, led by Shirley Jo Finney and Divinia Shorter, allowed me to further explore the world of my play, A Medusa Thread, and take the narrative to new heights. I’m excited to see where this play goes next following the workshop."
Candrice Jones, playwright, A Medusa Thread
"To be included along the other incredible playwrights at the LAUNCH PAD BIPOC Reading Series was a deeply humbling experience. Despite the pandemic turning yet another theatrical event virtual, there was an impressive amount of community building that occurred with the help of the producers. I was able to connect and work with playwrights, directors, actors, and others who I know will be life-long colleagues. Over the course of the week, I was able to thoroughly experiment with my play Exotic Deadly: or the MSG Play, and the draft we presented was leaps and bounds beyond the first draft that I had brought in at the top of the week. Additionally, the connection to literary and artistic directors that I don’t usually have access to, was a huge step forward in getting my play eventually produced. On the other end, I worked with a fully undergraduate student cast, some of whom had little to no theatre experience. In the AAPI community, we are often not encouraged to pursue the arts as a career, so these kinds of mentorship opportunities are sometimes the only glimpses into the art world."
Keiko Green, playwright, Exotic Deadly: or the MSG Play