UCSB Theater student Ryan Hollon (pictured above) participated in professor Risa Brainin’s virtual classroom, where she moved her actors and directors through a series of scenes from Chekhov’s The Seagull and Aaron Posner’s Seagull sequel, Stupid Fucking Bird. | Credit: Courtesy

Theater has always been about change, and there’s never been a time like the present moment to emphasize that fact. At UCSB, where the theater and dance departments offer a conservatory-style BFA degree, faculty, students, and their professional allies have adjusted rapidly to the Zoom-based reality thrust upon them by pandemic-driven social distancing.

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On April 2, Launch Pad, the department’s new play development program, delivered a reading on Zoom of Fortunes, a play by Dan Castellaneta and Deb Lacusta that was originally slated for a live, in-person presentation. Since then, the faculty has led multiple efforts, both in and outside the program. Department chair Irwin Appel acted in one, and then directed two Zoom productions for Southwest Shakespeare on Zoom, including Romeo and Juliet on April 18. Professor Risa Brainin moved her actors and directors online for a series of scenes from Chekhov’s The Seagull and Aaron Posner’s Seagull sequel, Stupid Fucking Bird. Students were thrilled when playwright Posner popped up on their screens for a Zoom-based class visit. 

Pictured from top to bottom are Dillon Redd, Daniel Andrés Blanco, and professor Risa Brainin.

On Friday and Saturday, May 1 and 2, the department’s Annie Torsiglieri and Michael Bernard ran a “Play in a Day” marathon in which students and playwrights came together to create something original for the Zoom environment in just 24 hours, and the results were exhilarating. 

The program’s most ambitious effort yet premieres on June 6, when 26 of the distinguished playwrights who have contributed to Launch Pad in the past come together to present new works created specifically for presentation through Zoom. As anyone who has worked with the technology knows, it’s both powerful and quirky, with its own particular set of constraints.

Expect sparks to fly as such distinguished writers as Enid Graham, Lynn Rosen, Idris Goodwin, Anne García-Romero, and Yussef El Guindi collaborate with UCSB faculty and students to show what theater can become when we are “Alone, Together.”

See theaterdance.ucsb.edu/news/announcement/812 for the time and the Zoom link.


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