Before she began her career with the Colorado Shakespeare Festival company, before she earned four Oscar nominations for films including “American Beauty” and “The Kids Are All Right,” before she married actor and director Warren Beatty, Annette Bening studied dramatic arts at San Diego Mesa College.
“I walked into Mesa not really knowing what to expect,” Bening said. Among her classes was Math for People who hate math, creative writing (“Here’s a test for diagramming sentences,” she said, pulling out worn piece of paper. “I got an ‘F’”) and American government. She resolved to work as an actress after stumbling into the Mesa College theatre program. “They had a really good theatre department,” said Bening, who added her instructors “taught me that the essence of theatre is teamwork.”
The Mesa College theatre program staged two shows each semester, and students were required to learn all aspects of a production, from operating the lights and building the props to auditioning for a leading or supporting role.
Theatre had become her passion. And it was while she was at Mesa that Bening landed a gig as a dancer in a pre-show presented outside the Old Globe in Balboa Park, a part that led to a walk-on in a Shakespearean production and two plays with the San Diego Repertory Theatre.
Bening transferred to San Francisco State University, and her career took her to summer Shakespeare festivals and regional productions before moving to New York and earning a Tony Award nomination for most outstanding debut performance in “Coastal Disturbances.
She earned the first of four Oscar nominations in “The Grifters” in 1990, and she earned her first Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress in “Bugsy.”
The two-time Golden Globe nominee remains as busy as ever with roles in several recently released films, including “Captain Marvel.” In 2019, Bening returned to Broadway for the first time in 30 years in a revival of Arthur Miller’s “All My Sons.”
“Annette Bening represents the best of our district,” said San Diego Community College District Chancellor Constance M. Carroll at a 2018 gala headlined by the actress. “She came to Mesa College uncertain of the path she would take, explored her options, worked hard, enjoyed success and through it all has remained dedicated to community.”