Play Reading Season Launches on Zoom at UCSB

By Steven Libowitz   |   July 16, 2020

After the sensational success this spring of UCSB Launch Pad’s Alone, Together project that found more than 20 past playwrights-in-resident contributing short original works created to be performed and directed by theater students and faculty over Zoom, the 2020 Summer Reading Series: New Plays in Process might seem a bit anticlimactic. But don’t sell the season short as the powerful program packs a lot into its four weeks, with a quartet of professional playwrights joining the UC Santa Barbara community as artists-in-residence in a collaboration with Artistic Director Risa Brainin and a team of undergraduate students and local actors.

The format provides a hands-on experience for the students and professionals to participate in the creative process in real time, with the young artists also being able to explore such areas as stage management, dramaturgy, lighting, costume, sound and scenic design in addition to acting, all while being mentored. The students also get the experience of offering ideas to the playwright as the script evolves before each week-long collaboration culminates in a public reading. The whole thing serves as an incubator to put plays and playwrights in the pipeline for Launch Pad’s longer preview productions during the academic year.

The 2020 season kicks off on Friday, July 17, with Once Upon A Family by Barbara Lebow, a past Launch Pad playwright whose earlier collaborations include Plumfield, Iraq, La Niñera, the Nursemaid and Killing Spiders. Local thespians Julie Fishell and Annie Torsiglieri join the student cast for the 7 pm reading of the work that examines the lives of a multi-generational, middle-American family that are forever changed when they are abruptly thrown into the aftermath of a deadly shooting.

Linda Alper’s Shanghai, which will be read on July 24 and directed by Sara Rademacher, is part adventure story, part coming-of-age and part exploration of a fascinating, nearly forgotten, piece of history where the city was the only place that took in visa-less European Jews in the decade surrounding World War II.

Set for a staged reading on Friday, July 31, James Still’s THE CRATCHITS (in America) is an imaginative parallel story to Charles Dickens’ famed A Christmas Carol,  set in a declining American city called Dickens, where a family of broken relationships with the same name is trying to find ways to repair and move forward.

The series comes to a close at 4 pm on Saturday, August 8, with a reading of Elocutia Do(es) Pygmalion by Cheryl L. West, a veteran playwright and TV scribe whose previous works include Broadway’s Play On! and The Watsons Go To Birmingham – 1963, previously workshopped at UCSB. A Black riff on Shaw’s Pygmalion with comic twists and turns and sharp-eyed observations about race, class, and language-based identity, West’s new effort finds Elocutia meeting Professor Herbert on the University of Chicago campus, where he tries to tame her wild tongue as she teaches him about being of his authentic self, comic twists and turns and sharp-eyed observations about race, class, and language-based identity.

A Q&A session with all of each week’s artists follows the weekly staged readings, which can be seen at Details at


You might also be interested in...