Making friends for life may not be the primary goal of theater artists, but it certainly qualifies as one of the stage’s most exquisite perks. When UCSB Professor Risa Brainin directed Tone Clusters, an experimental play by the distinguished author Joyce Carol Oates, at the Guthrie Theater back in 1995, she wasn’t necessarily thinking that their connection would be renewed more than 20 years later. But that’s exactly what’s happening this Thursday, July 7, when Oates will be at UCSB’s Art, Design & Architecture Museum along with Brainin, fellow director Irwin Appel, and a cast of students and one alum of the school’s BFA program in acting for a one-night-only reading of the new play Bad Touch.

How did this happen? Let’s hear Brainin explain it: “After we finished the run of Tone Clusters at the Guthrie, the play stayed with me, and I began reading as much of Joyce’s work as I could. I also started using Tone Clusters in my directing classes because it was a great script for students to learn on and presented a lot of interesting challenges for them,” she said. “When I was thinking about who I would like to work with next season in Launch Pad, our new play development program, my mind went back to a novel by Joyce Carol Oates that I thought would make a great play. I emailed her, reminded her of who I was and what we had done together 21 years ago, and suggested that she consider coming here to work on the adaptation I had in mind.”

So what happened next? “She responded to my message within the hour, and although she wasn’t interested in adapting the novel I had suggested, she told me that she did have a new play that was ready to be given a reading. That was Bad Touch, and now she is here to observe the rehearsals and we are doing it!” Brainin said.


Bad Touch will be presented free to the public at the UCSB AD&A Museum at 7 p.m. on Thursday, July 7. For more information, visit


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