Think of the moment in your life when you were the most scared. Would you be willing to share that moment with a room full of strangers?
That’s exactly what Clackamas Community College English instructor and playwright Sue Mach requests of her playwriting students. And the amazing thing is, they do it.
“After the first one breaks the ice, they are actually quick to follow, and pretty soon we all know a lot about each other,” Mach says.
It’s all great, raw, vulnerable material to build an authentic story on, one rich with complex characters and emotional truths.
Mach, who recently won the Oregon Book Award for her play The Lost Boy, teaches playwriting, screenwriting, screenwriting production, drama literature, Shakespeare, mythology and writing.
Her goals are not just to teach the mechanics of screenplays and playwriting, but to educate the real person, flaws included.
“Getting into those real life experiences, when you were most angry, most proud, most in love, a moment when everything changed in an instant, those are great places to weave a story around, because they’re not cliché,” Mach says.
Mach has had many students amaze her with their talent and hard work.
One former student went on to graduate from Reed College, got his Ph.D. at Northwestern University and is now running a theater company in Chicago.
Starting at CCC can be advantageous, Mach says, because you have a lot more opportunity than you’d have as a university freshman.
“You’re a bigger fish in a smaller pond, so you get to know the teachers really well, there’s less competition, and if you’re willing to work hard, you can make a name for yourself,” she says. “You can go into a university as a junior and already have had a play produced.”
Meanwhile, Mach continues to follow her passions, playwriting — she is in her eighth re-write of The Lost Boy, which is being considered by several theaters to be produced in 2012 — and teaching.
“I believe that when you educate, you’re educating the full person, not just a worker, but a human being,” she says. “My students are not just numbers. I look at the whole person and ask, ‘What do you want to do and how can I help?’ ”
For information about Writing and English courses at CCC, contact 503- 594-3254 or mail firstname.lastname@example.org