What the Students are Saying

No matter their concentration or major, students join LAUNCH PAD for the opportunity to work inside a professional theatre laboratory, collaborating with and learning from celebrated playwrights, directors, and actors. They learn all aspects of play development along with the skills unique to performing new plays, plays in process, and development. Upon graduation, students often count their time with LAUNCH PAD as one of their favorite UCSB experiences.

Here's what the students have to say...

...about LAUNCH PAD Preview Productions:

“LAUNCH PAD was an intense and equally rewarding experience where I had the opportunity to originate multiple characters. I was also able to learn about (the fundamentals of) playwriting and design which was a first hand experience I deem priceless."

- Roz Cornejo, Senior BFA actor, The Watsons Go To Birmingham - 1963

"Working with LAUNCH PAD on We Want the Funk: a rustbelt lullaby on the one! was my first experience in a professional acting environment. Rehearsals were fast paced and open dialogue between all cast members was encouraged. The cast was driven, loving and focused. It was amazing to watch the director and playwright study subtle nuances in the play from preview to preview and change them in order to achieve the most outstanding overall performance possible. The overall process was absolutely thrilling!"

Alexander Hudson, Junior, We Want the Funk: a rustbelt lullaby on the one!

“Being privileged enough to create a role was a vital part of my development as an actor. I’m so thankful I had the chance.”

Trevor Wade, Sophomore BFA actor, Kingdom City

"It was an intensely collaborative, lively experience. Truly what theatre should aim to be--a handful of people with wholly different life experiences all getting together to create an amazing story right now."

Dakotah Brown, BFA graduate actor, La Niñera: The Nursemaid

"I've never had a better understanding of a playwright's work and insight. To be a part of the playwright’s process is an absolute honor. An experience I’ll never forget.”

Carlos Peñuela, BFA graduate actor, Melancholy Play

"I felt that being in the room with a professional playwright, watching her process--both her struggles and her creative MacGuyvver-ing out of those moments of stasis in the writing--to be some of the most powerful moments of true instruction that I’ve ever had."

Brian Granger, PhD candidate and dramaturg, La Niñera: The Nursemaid and Kingdom City

"Working on these new plays places our department on the front line of contemporary theater, rather than the sidelines. There’s no buffer between the moment of inspiration and study; instead, our students are making the texts others will study later. I have to say, these new works erase the line for me between working in college theater and participating in a professional theater lab."

- Jason Narvy, PhD graduate actor, Kingdom City

"My learning and growth were boosted by this process like I never thought they could be--it’s a rare position an actor finds themselves in." 

Joelle Golda, Senior BFA actor, La Niñera: the Nursemaid

“To work on a play that can, and most assuredly will change at any given time is exhilarating. It really kept me, as an actor, on my toes. One of the first things I do when I read is a play is flip to the page of the original cast and crew-to see who was a part of the world premiere. It's so wild, and incredibly exciting to know that one day I'll flip to that page and see my name. There's nothing like it-working on a play that is truly a living, breathing thing."

- Brennan Kelleher, BFA graduate actor, The Dinosaur Within and Plumfield, Iraq

“Working on Kingdom City has been one of the most artistically and intellectually rewarding experiences of my academic and professional careers. I had the opportunity to participate in the development of an important new piece of American drama.”

Clareann Despain, PhD candidate, Assistant Director, Plumfield, Iraq

“Being part of this truly collaborative process and having the opportunity to work first hand with the writer and creative team was the most empowering theatrical experience I have ever had.“

Amy Gumenick, BFA graduate actor. The Dinosaur Within and Plumfield, Iraq


"My experience with LAUNCH PAD this summer was wonderful. I grew in ways I didn’t imagine I would, and I’m so thankful for the opportunity to meet the writers and delve into their processes! Thank you!"

~ Netta Nakash, BFA student actor, Summer 2023

"I absolutely love being a part of LAUNCH PAD because it is a great opportunity to connect with professional writers as acting students to tell urgent, raw, fresh and innovative stories that the community today needs to experience."

~ Joan Cheam, BFA student actor, Summer 2023

"There is no experience that could ever compare to this! The friendships, the work, the chaos- it’s what Theater is meant to be! LAUNCH PAD has helped me make everlasting connections that I’ll forever be grateful for."

~ Aivarey Sala, BFA student actor, Summer 2023

"LAUNCH PAD was truly an internship working with professional writers. The fast-paced quality of the class combined with the professional expectations of our guests really allowed me to rise to the occasion and do some of my best work in such a short time. "

~ Nick Enea, BFA acting student, Summer 2022

"I recommend LAUNCH PAD for students looking to expand their knowledge about playwrights and their creative process, not by reading about it, but being in the middle of the action!  Students get to learn new things about themselves as artists and engage with audience members who love and support theater."

Baillie Antunes, UCSB English major, theater minor, Summer 2022

"LAUNCH PAD is a masterclass for putting on new plays that allows students to learn about many different positions in the theatre industry." 

Hannah Froman, UCSB directing student, Summer 2022

"It's a really cool opportunity to get to experience a new play with the playwright in the room. I now have the tools and the understanding and the capability to do something like this in the future ...which will hopefully be many times."

Kirsten Høj, BFA acting student, Summer 2022

"Having outside professionals come in and collaborate with us has made me even more excited to start this next year, graduate, and work with all of these people again."

Carlee Douglas, BFA acting student, Summer 2022

"UCSB Summer LAUNCH PAD program offers me a great practical opportunity to work with fabulous writers and talented theater directors/designers. It allows me to closely observe how professionals collaborate with each other and I can apply my theoretical knowledge to the project that I have learned from classes. Intensive working schedule also encourages me to preplan for the following weeks and have a more organized mind."

~ Frances (Yizhou) Sun, student artist, 2020 Summer Series

"LAUNCH PAD was such an enriching experience. Collaborating with working professionals really allowed me to appreciate the process of configuring a script. My time in LAUNCH PAD pushed me to go farther as an actor and the support I received from castmates, director, and playwright was something I'll never forget."

~ Kinah Bryant, student artist, 2020 Summer Series

"I had a great time working on LAUNCH PAD this summer! Even though it was over zoom, I felt like we did so much more technically than we had in past zoom theater productions. It really opened my eyes to both some fantastic new work, as well as the possibilities of zoom theater!"

~ Matte Kranz, student artist, 2020 Summer Series

"Typically we view performances in the flesh surrounding ourselves with other viewers but, this summer, LAUNCH PAD made the unthinkable possible! We worked through all the technical difficulties and were still able to put on a cohesive show and UCSB's T&D Department keeps improving thanks to our first trials in the summer with online shows. It was really fun and new and interesting for all and I'm glad we knew how to tackle these obstacles."  

~ Anabell Cho, student artist, 2020 Summer Series

"As an actor, working so closely with the playwright is an amazing gift. I gained insights into how to approach a character that I will carry with me throughout my career."

~ Lana Spring, student artist, 2020 Summer Series

"Enriching, exciting, extraordinary. LAUNCH PAD is all that and so much more."

John Loren, student artist, 2020 Summer Series

"LAUNCH PAD is an invaluable opportunity for undergraduate theater students to work in a fast-paced, creative environment with professional actors, playwrights, and other artists from the industry. The experience helps build work ethic and creative efficiency, and it helps students like myself become more confident and well-rounded artists."

Sophie Swezey, Senior BFA, 2019 Summer Reading Series

"Being in LAUNCH PAD has been the most adventurous, fun experience this summer: being able to bring new characters to life and help the playwrights develop their new plays. Risa is one of the best directors I've worked with and I'm glad I got to be a part of this experience.

Shilla Namara, Senior, 2019 Summer Reading Series

"My summer with LAUNCH PAD was a pleasure. Whether an actor, writer, or director, LAUNCH PAD is an enriching experience."

John Loren, 2019 Summer Reading Series

"LAUNCH PAD was a great experience that  showed me how the process of writing a play is just as important as discovering how to perform it. Working at the same table as the playwrights really puts you at the center of the writing process, breaking the myth of the perfect first draft. Great plays are never perfect in their first incarnation and LAUNCH PAD allows students to watch them grow and change firsthand."

- Nick Freedson, Junior BFA, Summer Reading Series

"LAUNCH PAD's Summer Reading Series is a great way to build yourself as a well-rounded artist! With a different role each week, I was able to gain experience in acting, dramaturgy, and stage managing to name just a few of the roles offered - all within the span of 3 weeks! As a part of LAUNCH PAD you will be in the room with professional artists and will be an active part of their creative process as they craft their work, which is an up-close experience that is hard to find as a student. Not only did LAUNCH PAD help me build my resume, but I gained connections with theatre artists from all over that I'm still in contact with. It's fun, it's challenging, and you'll get to see your work come together in a staged reading for an audience which is the most rewarding way to wrap up each play. Whether you are a seasoned artist looking for more experience, or someone who wants to learn about how theatre is created, I would highly recommend LAUNCH PAD's summer reading series to anyone who can snag a role in it!" 

Katherine Hamilton, Senior Directing, Summer Reading Series

"The LAUNCH PAD Summer Workshop provided the unique opportunity for me as a young director to better understand how to work with a playwright by observing the playwrights' processes as well as assisting with workshopping the plays. It was a fast-paced environment that required each of us to participate in more than one role in the development of the staged reading, which not only encouraged us to continue pursuing training in various aspects of play development but also created a rich and creative learning environment during the workshop."

- Nabrasha Nelson, Senior BA Theater Major with a concentration in Directing

"I loved LAUNCH PAD Summer Workshop 2014! It helped me understand playwriting, and how a theatre company works with the playwright to put their play up on its feet! I also liked how I got to do many different jobs such as being an assistant stage manager, an assistant playwright, and to portray a character. It really helped me to delve into theatre and to see the process as a whole.

- Megan Connors, Junior BA Theater Major with a concentration in Theater and Community

"LAUNCH PAD, an opportunity to make choices. Choose big!
The class that gave me the biggest growth as an actor!
LAUNCH PAD, the creation of a political and artistic voice (a play), by students collaborating with professionals!
A taste of the real world!
A chance to for experience in our field of work"

- Rigoberto Sanchez, Junior Theater Major, BFA in Acting

"It was fun and exciting to have a new challenge and new friends every week. I will take the skills I learned in this class with me. I already used them in a stage reading I did just last week.

- Jesse Waddell, Junior Theater Major, BFA in Acting

"The LAUNCH PAD class with Risa Brainin was an amazing experience to work with some phenomenal playwrights. I learned so much about the process of working a new play and watching it move from paper onto it's feet! The experience was invaluable and one that will sit with me forever. I am so grateful to have been given the opportunity to participate in this class." 

- Sian Harden, Junior BA Theater Major, with a concentration in Playwriting 

"LAUNCH PAD is one of the most exciting, strengthening, and best learning experiences that I have ever had. I'm so glad I got to be a part of it because it strengthened my acting and connected me with people I would have never met otherwise. All actors should be a part of a workshop class at least once in their careers."

- Sarai Ford, Junior Theater Major, BFA in Acting

"LAUNCH PAD taught me a great deal about aspects of the playmaking process that I otherwise would not have known. It put me in contact with phenomenal actors and playwrights that had tremendous amounts of insight and experience to bring to the table that everyone involved was able to learn from. For me, it was an experience that was absolutely essential to my growth in theater."

- Austin Jiang, Sophomore Theater Major, BFA in Acting

"My experience in LAUNCH PAD was a very rewarding one. I got the chance to work with such a talented and creative group of people, and to work with a new playwright each week always had me on my toes wondering what we would dive into next.  It was nice getting the chance to help the playwrights with their creative journey just as much as they helped us with ours.  The fast pace of the class made the experience a challenging yet exciting one, because to get a whole new play/script each week really has you learning so much in such a short period of time."

- Solmyra Araiza, Senior Theater Major, BFA in Acting

"Being a part of the LAUNCH PAD Summer Class was one of the best experiences I have had as an actor at UCSB. I loved getting to work with professional actors, directors, and of course, playwrights. It taught me to be flexible and disciplined in doing the work, to collaborate and contribute, and most importantly, how to have fun during the process. "

- Charles Grant, Senior Theater Major, BFA in Acting

"As the teaching assistant for this summer pilot course and as someone who has supported myself as an actor, I witnessed, firsthand, how the LAUNCH PAD program successfully bridges academic study of performance making with the working methods of the professional theater. Prof. Brainin balanced investment in each student's individual process with attention to the direction of public readings. Members of the class collaborated with three nationally recognized playwrights, learning to creatively embody the roles of designers, actors, stage managers and assistant directors. I felt the excitement in the room when the class realized that their contributions in our workshop were resulting in substantial changes to one of the scripts, which was concurrently in rehearsals at a regional theater on the east coast. I saw students’ confidence as a theater makers grow as they registered the value and impact of their work here in the UCSB community, as well as within the larger arena of national new play development."

- Blythe Foster, Graduate Student 

"It was such a unique experience to be a part of an artist's work in progress. The script is constantly changing and we were always discovering something new. It is a chance when the playwright and the actor can really come together and create something beautiful."

- Kody Siemensma, Undergraduate Student 

"My experience working on the LAUNCH PAD workshop of Joyce Carol Oates' play Bad Touch was unbelievablely fulfilling on both an artistic and personal level. To have the opportunity to "come home" to UC Santa Barbara's Theater Department to work with such an iconic writer (not to mention the wonderfully talented students and faculty of UCSB) on this thought-provoking play was, for me, a dream come true. To watch these young artists have the opportunity to collaborate so closely and directly with a literary giant of Joyce's caliber was incredibly inspiring. To be so challenged and rewarded by the process myself? Well, that was just an unexpected bonus. I can't say enough good things about this remarkable program. In a world inundated by technology and lack of personal connection, being able to workshop art in this intimate way alongside peers and working professionals is not just a treat, it's completely necessary."

Jessie Sherman, Alumnus

"LAUNCH PAD was one of the most important classes I have taken here at UCSB. Between getting to work so closely with incredible faculty, and experiencing first hand the intensely collaborative process that can come from this type of play workshopping, I feel that my passion and understanding of my art has been taken to the next level."

Katie Walker, Undergraduate Student

"LAUNCH PAD is really something special. It's a program which practices a real dedication to excellent storytelling, and as a result, the talents going into its productions come out fresher and bolder than they were coming in. It was a privilege to work in an environment which not only values but also seeks out and expertly synthesizes the various abilities brought in by individual members."

Christine Hamlin, CCS Literature major & Theatre minor