Campus Celeb: Sean Fortenberry

Here’s a few things about Sean!

Hometown: Pittsburg, CA

Major: History

Year: Junior

Hobbies: Reading, writing, watching movies, listening to music, watching old game shows 

               (What’s My Line) and cooking shows (The French Chef) on YouTube, and

               trying to understand the fate of humanity

Who is your favorite musician? Bob Dylan

                                                                                                                     The wonderful Bob Dylan 

Campus involvement

Despite the fact that I am a History major, I am also involved with the Theater, Dance, and Performance Studies (TDPS) Department here at Cal. I started acting in the Spring of 2015 and absolutely loved it, so I’ve continued it into the Fall and hope to complete the last series of classes before I graduate in 2017. I was lucky to take part in a production this year called A Murder of Crows, a fabulous drama set in an industrial waste town. I played a gilded soldier who had no need to talk to the rest of the characters in the play until the very end. It was an amazing experience and the people at TDPS are some of the best I know.

What are your plans after graduation?

This question is difficult. I have jostled around with the idea of applying for MFA programs in Creative Writing around the country, but am equally excited about the prospect of taking some time off and traveling to Ireland and Scotland. The only certainty is that I want to write in the future, hopefully professionally, but given the difficulty in getting work published on a consistent basis, my future with that will likely find me in a small apartment room eating toasted bread for dinner while I wait for that sought-after call from The New Yorker or The Paris Review to let me know that my edgy work has struck a nerve with publishers.

                                                                         Sean played the role of Andy in A Murder of Crows in November. 

Who are your biggest literary influences?

Toni Morrison, Cormac McCarthy, Thomas Pynchon, and Haruki Murakami

Here is one of Sean’s original writings

Excerpt from longer piece:

                                                                                                                            Palace of Leaves

The grey gulls were the brightest thing in the sky. Their wings clapped like hidden thunder over these waters and the gliding made them appear angelic. Our angels maybe. But the planes roared above them like vultures scared and hungry. We did not know then that there were fires in our hearts unquenched, yearning, but the sound of time falling crisply in this dying air could have zapped any man, woman, or child of the reserve it takes to go hungry. The time to act was now. We were traversing this swampy desert for five days, enough time to find reflection in the dead bodies creeping above the belching waters. In each face, cold and blue, breath had left and the chilly rags of mud had given cake to their hair so that it looked like weeds. It was not time alone that set this transformation. No. A wooden tomb beneath a field of poppies would have given reverence to their visage, kept them separate for a time from the inevitable mixture of leathering skin and slimy earth. It was this place, this muck of brown swells that sank into the ground becoming loose that blest their marriage quicker. The bodies were more solid than the swamp bed, could keep the vines above the water long enough for the sun to shine some on them though the clouds covered it in ash. All was falling beneath these billowing grey vapors, even the desirous shrubs of a swamp whose best inhabitants these weeks dead and rotting. We found it five days ago and each day more makes us envy the companionship underneath, friendship like two young children hanging on the side of a cliff with hands clasped. But we are on the edge of this cliff, looking for some brightness in the sky.

Mud was far ahead of us. The youngest, he ran for the horizon unfolding before our company and would come to rest from the fruitless chase on a mound of lumpy earth. He was often a day ahead of us, but his rest was so long that we caught up with him and mourned his lying on the wet dirt for it showed us that the bog had not died. We rested whenever we found him and waited for him to wake so that he did not feel lost in his futile doings. He would stand abruptly at the first sight of one of us, gather what belongings had fallen from his person, and trudge beyond faster and faster until he was out of sight in the faint fog of this flat ruin. The rest of us, alone in our company, droned in the direction he took as if we were floating statues, alive in our cold, cross-painted cemeteries in night. I could see myself stopping at any drop of color in my sight and sometimes opened my shirt to see the unmarked skin I was born in. It was hard to tell what time it was since the grey kept day and night out.

Before we could catch Mud again, Jakson fainted. We rushed over to him and tried to get him to a spot of dryness so that the water would not chill his bones already old and brittle.

Its okay Jack, we have you. Debora, hand me your jacket so we can lay him on it.

I took off my sweater as she undid her jacket. Once I had both, I set him on them so that his body barely touched the cold ground. I rubbed my hands on his chest and face to give them some warmth. Finally, his eyes opened.

Why am I on the ground?

You fainted, Jack. It’s either this or cooling down in the water. Your choice. He looked up at me and smiled.