Justin Edward Keim, Class of 2012

March 1, 2021
Justin Edward Keim Headshot

I am so grateful to Sonoma State for igniting my love of theatre. I graduated from SSU in 2012 with a degree in History. Growing up, I always had a passion for storytelling, and I thought studying History was the way to navigate that. Halfway through my collegiate career, for a change of pace, I enrolled in an acting fundamentals course. I failed. I loved the stories being told but I was too in my head. I feared going on stage and being vulnerable. I couldn’t commit and began missing a bunch of classes. My instructor told me that the only way I was going to pass the class was if I signed up to be an actor for that spring’s Super Mega Hot Molten Hot Lava New Play Festival. Aptly named, seeing how Super Mega Hot Molten Hot Lava was the name of the dance my insides were doing when I knew I’d have to perform onstage in front of an audience. However, this show turned out to be one of my favorite and most rewarding experiences at Sonoma State. It opened up a whole new world for me. Not only did I get a chance to see the inner workings of theatre, I was given an opportunity to fully participate in every aspect of theatre making. The rehearsal room became a magical place. Students were creating new plays, exploring their meanings, and working as a team to get them up on their feet. It was such a fulfilling, cathartic experience; I felt like I finally had a sense of community. When the moment finally came to perform on stage, I realized I was so passionate about and excited by these plays, that the reward of acting them out for others to hear and experience far outweighed any fear. I was so blown away by the experience, the faculty, and my peers that I decided to minor in Theatre. Eventually, I found myself taking more Theatre classes than History.

One of the plays I performed in during that festival was by fellow alumnus and playwright Dylan Waite. Since that show, Dylan and I have collaborated in upwards of a dozen different shows together from Sonoma State to San Francisco to New York City. I am so thankful for my experiences at Sonoma State because I am still reaping the benefits from my training and the connections I made there.

Sonoma State not only gave me the tools and the confidence to compete in the theatre world. Without Paul Draper or Doyle Ott’s encouragement, I would have never had the confidence to apply to the American Conservatory Theater MFA program, where I graduated in 2018. The beginning of that program was daunting. I was surrounded by students from big name schools, even Ivy League Universities. I was the only one in the whole program from a California State school. The training I received at SSU not only sparked my passion for theatre but also gave me the tools necessary to compete and excel at the highest level. 

Since graduating SSU in 2012, I have been lucky enough to perform in plays across the Bay Area and New York City. Sonoma State was such an instrumental part of my training and theatrical experience that no matter what rehearsal room I’m in I keep reflecting back on things I learned in Ives 101. One of the things I’m most grateful for was the faculty’s encouragement of student driven work. The program never felt like a study hall.  It was a playground for creativity and new ideas. The faculty gave us the keys and let us get behind the wheel. Literally. They gave us the keys to the Ives building so we could put on a student play, by ourselves, at midnight! It was this encouragement and passion for creativity that continues to fuel me. In 2018, I was lucky enough to receive the A.C.T. Alumni Innovator award for my work in new play development. This passion all started from that first Super Mega Hot Molten Hot Lava New Play Festival. 

Due to the pandemic and theatres across the country being shut down, Dylan Waite and I have been trying to continue exercising our theatrical muscles in new and creative ways. As I’m sure many reading this already know, it’s been a struggle to keep creative during this time. For a while it felt like my passion was being stamped out. But, like I learned at Sonoma State, new challenges bring new opportunities. For the past three months we have been working with Lanes Coven Theatre Company, in Gloucester, Mass., developing Savannah, a radio play that will be released at the end of this month. It has been such a rewarding experience teaming up with a fellow alumni to create something new and exciting. We have also been lucky enough that our work has garnered some attention. So much so, that the American Conservatory Theater has even put it on their list of recommended productions. I am so thankful to the Sonoma State Theatre Department for helping me discover my passion for theatre and encouraging my development as a creative artist.


For more information about Savannah please visit the Lanes Coven Theatre Co. Website

Justin Edward Keim Website

Instagram: @justin.keim