Alumna finds home in San Diego improv scene

by Joe Gilmore, Staff Writer

For San Diego State graduate Jewell Karinen, improvisational theater not only gives her the opportunity to act on a regular basis but also a chance to meet like-minded people and show off her creative talent.

Unlike other forms of performance art, improv doesn’t use a script. Everything is made up on the spot.

“It’s sort of like a dance party,” Karinen said. “Everyone agrees that we’re going to do this cool thing for the next 20 minutes, and if it works, it’s going to be awesome. It’s just unlike real life and I really think real life is overrated, which is why I’m an actor.”

Karinen has been making her presence known both on and off the stage by working with the San Diego improv community.

She’s currently a social media strategist at Sidestage Improv and a member of numerous improv groups, including an all-female group at Finest City Improv. She also teaches classes for aspiring improv artists.

Her passion is tied to her time as a theater student.

Karinen has been doing improv for five years and has been involved with Sidestage and Finest City for two years. She got her start in her high school theater classes, eventually joining her school’s improv club. She then began taking classes at Southwestern College during her senior year.

“I took an improv class there for two semesters, every Monday for four hours, and it was awesome,” she said.

She’s also a social media strategist for Sidestage Improv. As the social media strategist and manager, she’s responsible for all of the company’s promotion and advertising ideas.

“I like that stuff,” she said. “I’m good at that stuff, so it is really cool to do it for something I actually care about.”

Karinen attributes some of her advertising knowledge to the journalism program at SDSU. After a semester at New York University and a few semesters in community college, she eventually found her place as an advertising major at SDSU.

“It all just sort of came together for me to transfer to SDSU and go into the advertising program,” she said. “And I just got lucky that it was great.”

During her time at SDSU, she took classes on social media, community and development and media strategy, among others.

She was involved with many campus organizations during her time as a student. She worked for KCR College Radio on its social media and helped launch its blog. She was also the social media assistant for the Department of Childhood and Family Development, using social media as a tool for recruitment.

Karinen cannot guarantee newcomers that Finest City’s first improv show will make them laugh, but she’s sure of one thing.

“You’re going to see a bunch of people go on stage and take a risk,” she said.