As my fellow Offenders know, I’m starting this week as the new Head of Playwriting at Columbia University. Not surprisingly, I’m excited and nervous about my new responsibilities, and obviously want to do as well as I can for my students. Way back when I was an undergraduate, I decided to try playwriting, but my university didn’t offer any playwriting classes. So I found a professor in the Creative Writing Department who was a novelist, but taught a class in dramatic literature, and asked him to read my fledging efforts. He told me my plays were really bad, which they were — that I had the desire to write plays, but didn’t actually know anything about the theatre. This same professor, John L’Heureux, then went on to help me design a playwriting major, and became my advisor for the next three years, leading to the writing of my first full-length play, FOB. John was my first important mentor, and we’ve remained friends to this day.
How about you guys? As advice to a new faculty member, what’s the best experience you had with a teacher? Or, as a cautionary note, you could also share your worst ones.