It’s not even 8 p.m. on a Thursday in mid-August, and the student actors of UCSB’s BFA Theater program have already realized one indelible image out of Too Much Water, the new K.J. Sanchez play they are workshopping with Sanchez and Jenny Mercein. After a thrilling rendition of the graveyard scene from Hamlet, a student reads stage directions that call for Ophelia to break through the dirt piled on her corpse, crawl out of the grave, “dust herself off, and look around in confusion.” It’s a reading, and the script is fresh out of the printer that day, so there are no props, but somehow the look on the actor’s face as she steps forward to assume this new version of an old role tells it all — something is different in Denmark.
For three weeks this summer, professional playwrights at the top of the American theater scene have been moving into the big rehearsal space known as TD-W 1507 and revving up their latest with the assistance of enthusiastic young actors who evidently appreciate being present at the creation of new work. The talkback that follows Too Much Water goes on almost as long as the segment, and it’s very nearly as interesting, with radically new ideas about Shakespeare alternating with equally fresh observations about the contemporary relevance of Ophelia’s situation. We may not be members of a royal court, but we’ve all witnessed the pain of public shaming, and some of us have even struggled with the brutal aftermath of a loved one’s suicide. Tonight, in this brightly lit black box, along with the birth of all these new ideas, new feelings, and new creative careers, a new play is being born.
The final installment of the Summer Launch Pad Reading Series goes up on Thursday, August 20, when James Still, a Launch Pad veteran, brings in his new work; April 4, 1968 is about the day Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. In the spring, Launch Pad resumes its full production series, now in its 11th year, with Idris Goodwin’s We Want the Funk, a rustbelt lullaby on the one! For more information about Launch Pad, visit www.theaterdance.ucsb.edu/launchpad.