Risa Brainin is a Professor, freelance director and Founder/Artistic Director of the groundbreaking new play development program LAUNCH PAD at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
Brainin served as Artistic Director of Shakespeare Santa Cruz (2001-03) where she directed The Sea Gull, Hamlet and the world premiere of Brad Carroll’s The Emperor's New Clothes. Prior to SSC, she held the position of Associate Artistic Director for both Kansas City Repertory Theatre (2000-2002) and Indiana Repertory Theatre (1997-2000). From 1987-1997, she resided in Minneapolis and had a rich association with the Guthrie Theater, serving as Resident Director (1991-93), Associate Company Director (1995-96) and acting instructor in the company's outreach program (1987-97).
Other directorial credits include plays at Syracuse Stage, Kansas City Repertory Theatre, Alabama Shakespeare Festival, American Players Theatre, Actors' Theatre of Louisville, Milwaukee Repertory Theatre, Great Lakes Theatre Festival, Portland Stage Company, Actors' Theatre of Kansas City, New Harmony Project,, Shakespeare Festival of St. Louis, Idaho Shakespeare Festival, Ensemble Theatre, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, Clarence Brown Theatre, Commonweal Theatre, TheatreSquared, and the Red Bull Theatre. She directed the premiere of Bob Stromberg’s That Wonder Boy in Minneapolis and the United Solo Festival in NY (WINNER: United Solo Fesival and Backstage Award, Best One Man Show and Best Direction, 2015) and Annie Torsiglieri's "A" Train also at the United Solo Festival in NY (WINNER: Best Production, 2017). Over ten years in the Twin Cities, Ms. Brainin directed for many companies including Mixed Blood, Illusion Theatre, History Theatre, and the Cricket Theatre.
Since creating LAUNCH PAD in 2005, Brainin has developed and directed many new works with the playwright in residence including Sarah Ruhl’s Melancholy Play, John Walch’s The Dinosaur Within, Barbara Lebow’s Plumfield, Iraq and La Niñera: The Nursemaid, Sheri Wilner’s Kingdom City, Biederman’s Match (based on Max Frisch’s Biederman and the Firebugs) by Beau Willimon, music by Michelle DiBucci, lyrics by Portia Kamons, Entangled by Lila Rose Kaplan, Untitled IV by Ruth Markofsky by Alison Tatlock, The Talented Ones by Yussef El Guindi, We Want the Funk, a rustbelt lullaby on the one! by Idris Goodwin, Staging the Daffy Dame by Anne Garcia-Romero, The Watsons Go to Birmingham — 1963 by Cheryl L. West, and Appoggiatura by James Still which premiered at Denver Center Theatre Company in January, 2015. LAUNCH PAD was featured in American Theatre magazine for its innovation and contribution to new play development.
The former director of education for SteppingStone Theatre for Youth Development, Ms. Brainin has taught and /or directed for the MFA programs at University of Minnesota and University of Missouri-Kansas City, UC Santa Cruz, Butler University and the BFA Program at University of Utah. A graduate of the Carnegie-Mellon University Drama Program, Brainin has served on grant panels for the Theatre Communications Group and the National Endowment for the Arts. She is Past President of the Board of Trustees of the National Theatre Conference, and chaired NTC’s Barrie and Bernice Stavis Playwriting Award Committee from 2007-10.