Kiefer Helsel’s heart beats quickly as he waits for his name to be called in to audition for a spot in Western’s first production of the year. Others are waiting with him, just as nervous, but he keeps to himself. Kiefer Helsel? He takes a deep breath and steps on his mark on the stage; this is where he comes to life.
Sophomore Helsel acted in several productions throughout high school, but he has never been a part of a Missouri Western production—until now. After showing up for auditions for “Romeo and Juliet,” Helsel unexpectedly took away the lead role as Romeo.
Director Tee Quillin said it never even crossed his mind that Helsel hadn’t been in a Western play before.
“I’m just glad Tee gave me the opportunity,” Helsel said. “Going into it, I knew there were a lot of townspeople and servants, so I said ‘all right, hopefully I can nail one of those down.’ I would just take what I get because it was my first audition, so I went in thinking I just hope I get in.”
Helsel got in, all right.
“I was checking for errors; I reread it like three different times like ‘Are you sure?’” Helsel jokes. “I had a good mixture of shock and disbelief at first, then the elation and gratitude for being chosen to be a part of the production.”
Helsel hates the auditions the most because he gets nervous, but once they are over, he is ready to roll. Helsel has been working hard to get in the mindset of Romeo.
“I’ll make sure I listen to music I wouldn’t normally listen to, like folk and bluegrass,” Helsel said. “Those kinds of things help me get into it.”
Helsel also went home and downloaded a southern speech coach on his computer in order to learn the accent for the play. Not only has the accent has been challenging for him, but learning the Shakespearean language in general has been tough. However others, like Misty Ballew, who is playing Juliet, see it differently.
“He’s been doing fantastic because this has been kicking my butt in lines, and I’ve been doing this for three years already,” Ballew said.
Helsel has been doing well with his lines according to fellow cast members. He hasn’t played a role as prestigious as Romeo before, so he has been working on bringing out a new version of Romeo.
“It’s been interesting because I haven’t ever had a part that’s so well known, so everyone is going to know what this part is supposed to be,” Helsel said. “In that same sense, I don’t want my character to be the Romeo that Leonardo DiCaprio played.”
Quillin is also helping Helsel find his own version of Romeo.
“I’m not having Kiefer play it the same way that you normally think of Shakespeare being played: that he’s falling all over himself in love and sighs; it’s not your traditional play.”
All in all, Helsel wants to display his character as a typical teenage boy that experiences atypical situations.
“I would say he’s young, he doesn’t really know a lot about life and by the end, he probably finds out a little more than he would’ve been looking for in the beginning.”