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Theater Preview: 'A Noble Failure'

OPB | Jan. 11, 2013 8:30 a.m. | Updated: Jan. 25, 2013 5:26 p.m.

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Playwright Susan Mach is adept at taking big issues and looking at them on a human level. For her latest play, A Noble Failure, Mach takes on No Child Left Behind and the contentious process of reforming our public schools.

The play explores the personal experience of school reform through three characters living on the front lines. There’s a veteran teacher struggling to connect with a troubled student, a principal trying to keep his school open despite pressures to privatize it and a crusading reformer with a relentless focus on accountability.  Each of the characters must balance the challenges of sticking to their principles while redefining what it means to be a good educator in a data-driven era of high-stakes testing and shrinking budgets.

The play premieres at Third Rail Repertory Theatre on January 11, 2013. It’s one half of a big night for Mach. Her 2011 Oregon Book Award-winning play, The Lost Boy, will also debut that night across town at Artist Repertory Theatre.

A hometown double bill is a rare honor for a playwright and one that has kept Mach hopping back and forth between productions during the past couple of months of rehearsals, rewrites and revisions.

“My motto through the whole thing has been, ‘Be here now,’ ” says Mach. “I set a goal for myself to never work on both plays in the same day. But I haven’t been getting a lot of sleep this last month.”

Arts & Life visited dress rehearsals this week and spoke with Mach and her husband, actor Bruce Burkartsmeier, who plays principal Truman Spencer in the production.

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