Allegheny Comm Arts Student Takes Center Stage

Watch out Hollywood … one of Allegheny’s own recently made the list of “110 Students to Watch” in Variety magazine.

Karina Mena ’16 was named to the list, which features upcoming movers and shakers in the entertainment industry. Karina, from Portland, Ore., is a lead technician in Allegheny’s Playshop Theatre and will attend the 2015 United States Institute for Theatre Technology (USITT) Conference in Cincinnati, the leading professional conference for theater technology and production.

“I feel very honored and surprised to be considered one of Variety’s ‘110 Students to Watch,’” says Karina, who is a communication arts major with minors in Latin American/Caribbean studies and theater. “It was really cool to hear that I was a part of this list, though I definitely was not expecting this news.”

“Karina embodies the unique spirit and possibilities of communication arts at Allegheny,” says Julie Wilson, assistant professor of communication arts/theater. “She is a talented artist, both on and off stage, as well as a sharp and passionate critic of our media culture. I have no doubt that Karina will spend her life creating images, sets, characters and stories that will challenge and inspire all of us!”

Karina says she decided to major in communication arts at Allegheny because she loves how the classes and the themes she and her classmates are learning relate to society and culture today. “It makes me feel like I can make, if anything, a small difference in the world and my community by being understanding and aware of myself and others,” she says.

She adds that one of the biggest takeaways from her communication arts major so far has been looking at her day-to-day life and actions, and the lives and actions of others, and “seeing and learning what we do based on societal norms or traditions.”

“I have learned how to critique myself and about the way I think based on society, and have really enjoyed looking into the reasons why we do what we do, and how and if we can change that,” she says.

Karina is heavily involved in Allegheny’s theater program. In addition to working as a lead technician for the Playshop Theatre, she also has been an actor in the shows, the properties master (who is in charge of collecting, purchasing and/or building all pieces that are placed on a stage set) and an assistant stage manager. In addition, she designed and constructed/welded a main set piece for a Student Experimental Theatre comp performance this year.

Additionally, Karina is a volunteer at the student-run coffeehouse Grounds for Change. She also is a member of the executive board for the service fraternity Alpha Phi Omega, where she serves as the historian who helps manage the fraternity’s social media accounts.

In the future, Karina would like to help create theater in a small company in a community where she can involve people with a variety of backgrounds, cultures and races. “Within this type of theater, we would celebrate these differences, but also make audiences and communities aware of them,” she says. “I would hope that this could start discussions of race and difference that are not always talked about, while creating a safe and creative space for these discussions.”

See the full list of Variety “110 Students to Watch” winners.