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New Dance and Theater Chairwoman
updated: Jun 28, 2012, 11:20 AM
On July 1, 2012, Professor Risa Brainin takes the helm as Chairwoman of the UC
Santa Barbara Department of Theater and Dance. Brainin succeeds Professor Simon
Risa Brainin joined the UC Santa Barbara faculty in 2004 having previously
served as Artistic Director of Shakespeare Santa Cruz. Prior to that, she held
posts as Associate Artistic Director at Kansas City Repertory Theatre and
Indiana Repertory Theatre, and Resident Director and Associate Company Director
at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis. Brainin has directed at dozens of
theatres across the US including Actors Theatre of Louisville, Milwaukee
Repertory Theatre, Portland Stage Company, Idaho Shakespeare Festival, Great
Lakes Theatre Festival, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, and the Alabama
Shakespeare Festival. She has taught and/or directed at many universities
including University of Minnesota, University of Missouri, Kansas City, Butler
University, UC Santa Cruz, and University of Utah. In Santa Barbara, she is the
Artistic Director of the UCSB Department of Theater and Dance's new play program
LAUNCH PAD where she developed and directed Melancholy Play by Sarah Ruhl, The
Dinosaur Within by John Walch, the world premieres of Barbara Lebow's Plumfield,
Iraq and La Niñera: The Nursemaid, Sheri Wilner's Kingdom City, Beau Willimon's
Biederman's Match, Lila Rose Kaplan's Entangled, and the upcoming Appoggiatura
by James Still. Local work includes Gunmetal Blues for the Ensemble Theatre
Company and Timon of Athens for the inaugural Lit Moon World Shakespeare
Brainin succeeds distinguished Theater Professor Simon Williams. Under
Williams's 8-year tenure as Chair, the Department of Theater and Dance
flourished. "We designed and built a new Theater and Dance complex of offices,
rehearsal studios, and performance spaces and refurbished the department's
Hatlen Theater, one of the university's premier theatrical performance venues.
In 2010, our Graduate Program was ranked 6th in the country by the National
Research Council. Indeed the department has survived these difficult times with
panache and renewed energy," says Williams. Chair-Elect Brainin concurs:
"Professor Williams' superb leadership strengthened the department, and we are
now poised to move forward with great agility."
What's next for the department? Brainin explains:
"We see ourselves as a magnet for artists and scholars around the world looking
for a fertile place to do their creative work. Through LAUNCH PAD, we are
creating a new model for play development. Our work at UCSB is setting the
stage for a whole new way of thinking about the ecology of developing new plays.
'Preview Productions' are the step in the life of a new play between
readings/workshops and professional premieres. The department is leading the
way with this model and our hope is that other universities will follow."
LAUNCH PAD is one program of several that brings artists and scholars to campus.
This summer, the department hosts the 'Global Theater and Performance Studies
Workshop' led by Associate Professor Suk-Young Kim. Its primary mission is to
create a network of scholars opening doors for long-term collaborations. Santa
Barbara Dance Theater, the professional dance company in residence at UC Santa
Barbara since 1976, has begun a new chapter under Artistic Director Christopher
Pilafian. Pilafian, trained at Juilliard and with an extensive professional
resume, envisions SBDT as a dynamic creative laboratory for the choreographic
and interdisciplinary development of new works.
In the past few years, the department has hosted dozens of artists and scholars
including the premiere playwright of Ghana, Ama Ata Aidoo, Tony Award-nominee
playwright Jon Robin Baitz, Chicano Theatre Scholar Jorge Huerta, modern dance
legend Jennifer Muller, television director/writer David Zabel, award-winning
playwright Bridghe Mullins, the Poor Dog Theatre Company, Swiss theatre director
and scholar Anton Rey, MacArthur award recipient and Tony Award winner Bill
Irwin, award-winning Irish playwright Marina Carr, British playwright David
Edgar, Trinity College Emeritus Professor Dennis Kennedy, as well as emerging
choreographers Sumi Clements, Alexandra Beller and Austin McCormick, each a
director of their own company in New York City. Brainin looks to the future:
"We are extremely excited about our initiative to become a magnet for developing
innovative work in theater and dance."
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