Risa Brainin

Theatre Director

In 2016, we released two short documentary films about LAUNCH PAD. Check out the program via these videos. 

Click    here    to visit the LAUNCH PAD website

Click here to visit the LAUNCH PAD website


 an artist residency and performance program for new plays at University of California, Santa Barbara.

Featured in American Theater magazine in 2013 as an innovative model of new play development in the USA, LAUNCH PAD is a high-tech lab for playwrights-in-residence, aspiring theater students, faculty and guest artists. Led by founding Artistic Director Risa Brainin, a new play is developed each year. The residency culminates in a full-scale "preview production" as part of the Departmental season. With a mix of student and professional actors, LAUNCH PAD is collaboration and experimentation at its finest, providing the missing link in new play development between a reading/workshop and a professional world premiere. 

The goal for these extended residencies is three-fold:

  1. To intimately expose serious theatre students to the working processes of people who make plays for a living every day

  2. To provide a safe and fertile environment for artists to boldly explore new ideas.

  3. To establish UCSB 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, the university 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.  These “Preview Productions” are fully realized allowing the playwright to see his/her work in 3-D. In 2010, the department formalized this initiative dubbing it “LAUNCH PAD, a residency and performance program at UCSB.”

“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 15 preview productions by distinguished playwrights. 2020 marks the 15th anniversary. 

Melancholy Play - Sarah Ruhl

The Dinosaur WIthin - John Walch

Plumfield, Iraq - Barbara Lebow

La Niñera: The Nursemaid - Barbara Lebow

Kingdom City - Sheri Wilner

Biederman's Match - Beau Willimon (book), Michell DiBucci (music), Portia Kamons (lyrics)

Entangled - Lila Rose Kaplan

Appoggiatura - James Still

Untitled IV by Ruth Markofsky - Alison Tatlock

The Talented Ones - Yussef El Guindi

We Want the Funk, a rustbelt lullaby on the one! - Idris Goodwin

Bernhard - Lynn Rosen

Staging the Daffy Dame - Anne García-Romero

The Watsons Go To Birmingham - 1963 - adapted from the novel by Cheryl L. West

What Martha Did - by Enid Graham (upcoming 11/15-24)

In addition to Preview Productions, LAUNCH PAD develops plays through the Summer Reading Series. Each play receives a 20 hour workshop including a public reading. 2019 marks the 6th anniversary of this series.

Gun Play - Barbara Lebow

¡Soldadera! - Jami Brandli

The Velvet Weapon - Deborah Brevoort

“A” Train - Anne Torsiglieri

Too Much Water - KJ Sanchez, Jenny Mercein and Ensemble

April 4, 1968 - James Still

Staging the Daffy Dame - Anne García-Romero

Stand By - Christina McMahon

Bad Touch - Joyce Carol Oates

Through the Eye of the Needle - Jami Brandli

(A) New World - James Still

Meanwhile There are Letters - Declan Hughes

The Watsons Go To Birmingham - 1963 - adapted from the novel by Cheryl L. West

The Survivors/Los Sobrevivientes - Katie Bender

The Myths We Made - Brian Otaño

Three Sisters Bronte - Arlene Hutton

What Martha Did - Enid Graham

Untitled Measurement Play - Mia Chung