Fullerton College Centennial


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Nathan Baesel

I was doing a Salieri monologue from Amadeus. Imagine the gall of a 16 year-old thinking he could portray a man who’s been driven by pride and humiliation to damn God and declare war on His beloved creatures! It gives you an idea of how well I thought of myself at the time. I was certain that I could win the Fullerton College High School Theater Festival if I could only outlast one opponent whom rumor and experience favored.

Sean McNall had won or placed highly in the previous year and everyone spoke impressively of his chances this year as well as his skill, energy and sheer magnetism. I was horrified to find all of the rumors prove true. He won and I was handed my first acting-related blow to pride and humility. Perhaps I sensed then that it was just the first of many more to come because rather than declare war on Sean’s beloved creatures, I befriended him when I joined the Fullerton College Theater program.

Sean unwittingly became my beacon for realizing greatness from the fog of potential. While he rigorously pursued his interests in the theater department, I did mine, always using Sean as a yardstick for quality. Intensity, challenge, acknowledgement, thrill, all of these were qualities which I thrived on at Fullerton College and was offered abundantly.

The culmination of all was a production of Rosencranz And Guildenstern Are Dead. Under Bob Jensen’s direction, Sean and I were given the lead roles and a lot of leash to run. Bob’s trust in us was total and my gratitude to this day is unreserved because I had a singular experience. I’d never had until then and haven’t had since such a sense of synchronicity, engaged with Sean in what amounted to a jazz set. His tireless energy and taste for surprise like Coltrane’s tenor. The result for me was a breakthrough in what wonders could be revealed through generous and imaginative collaboration.

At the same time, a young pup named Matt D’amico came onto the scene quickly making a name for himself as an indispensible player in the theater department. I could never have imagined that three years later I’d be driving across the country with him in a compact rental car packed with all of our possessions. As we warily navigated our way out of the Lincoln Tunnel and north through the harried streets of Manhattan, we were already $150 dollars in debt from speeding tickets and gas station refreshments. The next year at Juilliard promised only to drive our debt deeper while promising in exchange the vivid experiences and training we sought.

Matt and I had followed the light of Sean’s beacon to New York. The three of us together at Juilliard were a declaration that the improbable was merely probability misapplied. We three very consciously represented Fullerton College and its future aspirants who, like us, wouldn’t accept complacency, would strive to manifest perfection despite our imperfections. These impulses were native but Fullerton College, the talent of its faculty, the integrity of its program nurtured them and the fruit they bore for Matt, Sean and I have been perennial.

Sean, beacon-like still, has been illuminating the classics for New York City audiences as a resident actor of The Pearl Theatre Company. Matt works regularly on and off-Broadway as well as at many of the country’s top repertory theaters. I’ve enjoyed a career in theater, film and TV and currently work in post-production. The three of us have a great fondness for one another, for the crucibles we endured together as well as the triumphs, for the memories we shared at Juilliard and the birthplace of our friendship, Fullerton College. Above all we look forward to the memories to come. With gratitude and affection I salute Fullerton College’s first hundred years and its next 100!

Much love,
Nathan Baesel