Monday, 23 November 2015

Writing Winning Words

Karsten Ladner

Despite his friendly appearances at high school drama performances as the director, few realize the impact of Mr. Sasse’s passion to write.

Arriving in 2006 as the new high school social studies teacher, Mr. Mark Sasse quickly garnered a reputation among his students for his devastating pop quizzes in his geography class. Today, however, he is known for the words he has written in plays, skits, novels, and musicals.

It was only the second year of Mr. Sasse’s tenure at the school that he began writing--and directing. When the previous drama director left, Mr. Sasse rose to fill the vacancy, having absolutely no experience as either an actor or a director. Sasse, rising to the occasion, not only directed the production but also wrote the entire script with a motley band of eager students. Since beginning in 2007, this remarkable teacher has continued to write and direct the scripts, heavily investing in the lives of students under his tutelage.

In addition to his full-length productions, Mr. Sasse has written numerous short skits, even beginning a new acting band, the Road Less Traveled (RLT) Players. The RLT Players, modeled after the Footstool Players, a crew of actors and actresses who perform short three to five minute sketches centered around one theme, have quickly become a Dalat favorite among students since its inception three years ago. The themes have varied widely from exploring the interaction of generations to probing the extremes of life, yet the skits continually stagger the audience with their poignant messages.

Mr. Sasse’s passion to write has led him into the exciting path of novel writing. His career as a novelist began by transforming one of his plays into prose. Soon after, he wrote his first novel, Beauty Rising (2012); and in October of 2013, he completed his second novel, The Recluse Storyteller. Since then, he has published The Reach of the Banyan Tree (2014) and A Love Story for a Nation (2015). Sasse’s stories weave his experiences growing up in the United States, living in Vietnam, and teaching in Malaysia with the values that he has encountered in each culture.

These stories have been encountered by students throughout their education at Dalat. Many times, Mr. Sasse has lent his talent to write scripts for skits before Spiritual Emphasis Week. He has written short scripts for Penang’s annual Short and Sweet Competition, in which his plays have won several awards. His words have traveled to Kuala Lumpur for the Forensics duet-acting competition, again winning first place. Sasse’s incredible talent in translating a theme into a riveting performance has captivated and stunned audiences time and time again.

Mr. Sasse has invested heavily in his passion to write, and the success is evident; fear, however, had stayed his pen for many years. “I’m not gonna let the negative thoughts and fears stop me,” said Sasse, “because I did that for too long but now I realize how much I love writing, whether a million people read it or two people read it. It’s just something I love to do.”

 Sasse’s passion to write has taken him down paths of life he would never have even envisioned, at first, as the social studies teacher who volunteered to direct high school drama. Now, he has influenced and impacted the community in more ways than meets the eye when he stands at the front of the auditorium asking the audience to kindly silence their phones.

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