Have you ever wondered how a play goes from a blank page to a full stage? UCSB Theater/Dance’s LAUNCH PAD program invites you into the process where plays are developed from the ground up.

Director Risa Brainin, Playwright Mia Chung, Hayley O’Toole and Andrew Truong are pictured at a previous LAUNCH PAD reading event. (Photo Courtesy of LAUNCH PAD)

“Every summer we invite three professional playwrights to UCSB to develop their new works in collaboration with a team of talented students,” said LAUNCH PAD Founder and Artistic Director Risa Brainin. “Each play goes through a highly energetic, evolutionary four-day workshop culminating in a reading for an audience.”

This summer’s opener is “Power Trio by Melinda Lopez. Co-commissioned by LAUNCH PAD and the Merrimack Repertory Theatre (MRT) in Lowell, Mass., this piece about immigration is inspired by Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night” and will have a preview production at UCSB in 2025, followed by its world premiere at MRT.

Next up will be “Strange Birds” by E. M. Lewis, a mysterious dark comedy about an unusual family that is sure to keep everyone on the edge of their seats.

The closing piece is James Still’s “Everybody’s Favorite Mothers.” Still’s play tells the story of PFLAG co-founder Jeanne Manford, and the courageous mothers who came together in 1973 in support of their children during a time when homosexuality was illegal in 49 states, the American Psychiatry Association still diagnosed homosexuality as a mental illness, and police raids on any kind of same-sex gatherings were common and life-threatening. Celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, PFLAG was the first organization dedicated to supporting, educating, and advocating for LGBTQ+ people and their families. LAUNCH PAD will present a preview production of Still’s play in February 2024. Catch the reading this summer and the preview production next year to experience the play’s exploration and development.

Andrew Truong and Katrina Cleave at a previous LAUNCH PAD reading event. (Photo courtesy of LAUNCH PAD)

Now in its 18th season, LAUNCH PAD continues to provide the experimental ground for professionals and students to thrive together.

“We have found the exchange between experienced pros and young artists creates a magical environment for nurturing new plays,” Brainin said. “And the audiences attending the readings are an integral part of this vital process!”

The LAUNCH PAD 2023 Summer Reading Series presents three readings, free to the public, Friday, July 21; Thursday, July 27; and Thursday, Aug. 3, at 7 p.m. in the Studio Theater at UC Santa Barbara. A reception to meet the playwright will be held 30 minutes prior to each reading. A Q&A with the playwright and artists will close out each event. RSVPs are requested.

For more information about this summer’s visiting playwrights and to RSVP, visit: https://launchpad.theaterdance.ucsb.edu/reading-series/2023