Cole Atencio said he’s known since he started high school that he wanted to be an actor. His experience at Grossmont College’s Theatre Arts department is giving him the on-stage experience to help him hone his skills.
Cole is one of four students who will be appearing in “The Mad Ones,” the latest production of the Theatre Arts department that will be streaming online April 8-17. The play is directed by Geno Carr, a renowned actor and director who is a faculty member at Grossmont College.
Cole, a 20-year-old La Mesa resident, said he was bit by the acting bug when he saw a play at Helix High School that was performed for new students and parents during a school fair as he was about to start ninth grade. He still remembers the play: “Zombie Prom.”
“Watching those people on the stage who were my age really got me interested in theater,” Cole said.
His parents had encouraged him to attend a university, but the death of his father at the start of his senior year of high school caused Cole to consider other options for his education.
“I started thinking, ‘What do I want to do?’ I still wanted to pursue an education, but I didn’t want to make the commitment to a four-year school,” he said.
Cole decided instead to attend Grossmont College. An additional selling point was getting his tuition paid through the Grossmont-Cuyamaca College Promise, which offers two years of free tuition to first-time students attending Grossmont or Cuyamaca College full-time.
“It was something that was really nice to have,” Cole said of the Promise. “I don’t need to spend the extra money before I go to a four-year school.”
Although his classes have been online this academic year, Cole said he’s had a good experience.
“Throughout the pandemic, I have felt supported,” he said. “If I miss an assignment, they reach out and say, ‘What’s going on?’ They try to help me in whatever way they could.”
Cole said that although he hasn’t met the other three actors in “The Mad Ones,” they have become good friends through their work together on the play. He had high praise for Carr, the director, who performed in the Broadway production of “Come From Away.”
“(Geno) is such a nice guy,” Cole said. “I absolutely love talking to him. You can tell that he really knows what he’s doing. He really understands the craft.”
Carr said he has enjoyed having Cole in the cast of “The Mad Ones.”
“Cole brings a natural warmth and playfulness to the role of Adam and that is clearly a reflection of his own personality,” Carr said. “He is passionate about musical theatre and it shows in his preparation and performance.”
Cole hopes that his experience in the play and his education at Grossmont College will lead him toward his dream career as an actor in musical theatre.
“I feel like that is my direction in life,” he said.