- Name: Helena Jones
- Year: Senior
- Major: Theatre
- Hometown: Clinton, KY
- Quirky Fact: I make a lot of weird noises when I get excited and have been known to sound like a raven.
- Favorite thing to get (food/ drink) on campus: Babybel cheese wheels and Diet Dr. Pepper from Starbooks at Waterfield (because I’m usually in rehearsals and it’s nearby).
- Best movie you’ve seen recently: Hidden Figures
- Favorite movie: Cloud Atlas
- Best book you’ve read recently: Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights by Salmon Rushdie
- Favorite book: American Gods by Neil Gaiman
- What you like to do on campus: Hang out in the theatre with my friends and talk politics or memes (there is no in between)
Tell us about yourself:
My name is Helena; I’m the middle child of three. The one thing I tell people about myself is that I am adaptable. Many people see me as a confidante to talk to, because I don’t judge people based on what they’re doing or what they have done. I feel that there aren’t enough people in the world who try and understand everyone before deciding how they feel about them, so I try to be as friendly as I can.
What made you come to Murray State?
Originally, I had it down to Western Kentucky University or Murray State University. There were three defining moments where I went, yeah Murray is where I want to go. The first was that my sister was here, and she could show me around campus and help me out without me feeling awkward. The second reason was that it was only an hour away from home so if there was an emergency, I could drive home but it was still far enough away that I wouldn’t feel like my parents were breathing down my neck, even though they won’t do that. Then the third moment was that I had more scholarships to go here, even though WKU was a little cheaper at that point, but I thought I’d rather be paid to go somewhere than to pay to go there.
Who have you enjoyed working with?
There have been two people on campus that have been my favorite people to work with. I wish I could work with them more than I have the chance to. One is Lissa Graham-Schneider, who is a fantastic director. She was the one who really helped me realize how much I enjoy acting; the character work I got to do with her for The Amish Project my freshman year was intensive and I looked forward to rehearsal every day. The other is Daryl Phillipy, who gave me my first role in the theatre department in Moonlight and Magnolias, and I’ve been working with him ever since. He agreed to do a 590 independent study last semester with me, where I taught fellow students three different dialects for public scenes. His productions have some of my favorite designs collaboratively put onto the stages here.
Who inspires you in life?
It comes down to two people, one famous the other not. My mom is a big influence in my life. She tricked me into theatre because my sister, who was into music, went to do theatre at Mayfield and I was roped into it, but I realized that I really liked it. She was also the person that got me into reading; in the English Department it’s all about reading and you can’t write unless you read all the time. The other would have to be Meryl Streep. She is a big influence in my acting style because she’s known for being able to change her voice and that’s really one of the things I’m studying. I am learning how to do different dialects and accents, changing the quality of my voice to create another character, through age or tone.
What made you choose the major you did?
It’s actually a funny story. I wasn’t going to go into theatre at all even though I really love it because I thought I needed to make money. I was going to be an English major in teaching, so I could teach English but then be able to do a drama club or something at the school. I used to think I was going to always be a teacher. But I was at Graves County High School in the choir room because I wanted to get in all the arts I could before I went off and have to be an adult. Dr. Black from the Music Department here at Murray did a lot of visits to Graves, where he sang and he would tell us all about the Music Department. I saw him twice, and the second time was my junior year of high school. He came in and he said “I wanted to be a Broadway star when I was little, but the only problem was that men on Broadway have to be taller than 5’7”. He talked about how even though he was too short, it didn’t stop him from choosing to become a professor and still performing and singing. He looked at all of us and said, “If there is one piece of advice I can give you, it would be to say screw the world and if you feel it is the only way to live then you should go into that major.” So I chose theatre.
Work/ projects related to your major?
I just finished teaching two dialect coaching jobs, one for the theatre in Mayfield and one for the children’s show for Treasure Island that closed in November. I’m hoping to start dialect coaching a little at Owensboro High School for their production of Peter and the Starcatcher. Also, we’re about to have auditions in the Theatre Department and found out over the weekend that I was cast in All in the Timing, which is our first show of this season.
Recent awards/ honors?
If you count scholarships, I got the Robert E. Johnson Scholarship for fall. I also got the Barbara Cochran Breazeale Fellowship, and that was awarded to two students in the College of Humanities and Fine Arts. That was pretty awesome.
I graduate in May, so my first plan is to go to the Southeastern Theatre Conference. That’s in March, and I’m hoping to either get a job doing sound board technician, since I’m in a class this semester for it, or work on networking with dialect coaches. I will see if they can help me find something in a different part of the country because I’d like to get out of Kentucky. There are not a lot of jobs in the south for theatre unless you’re going into film and are in Atlanta. After that, I’m hoping to be at home for about a year or so to get myself ready to go out and hopefully find a job somewhere in the theatre industry. If I can’t, I’m okay with doing sound tech for people needing them for weddings and big events for traveling companies. I hope that within the next ten to fifteen years I can move to Scotland for my graduate degree in voice and diction, and this school in Scotland is the best place to go if you want to do anything in dialects.
“I met Helena about 4 years ago when she auditioned for our production season as freshman. She nailed the audition and was cast as Ms. Poppingale in Moonlight and Magnolias. She demonstrated a strong stage presence and a great work ethic. That work ethic transferred to her class work as well. I am honored to have Helena in several of my classes. She is inquisitive, insightful and demonstrates a high level achievement in her academic work. She raises the bar for all in the classroom, she is a leader. She also has a wonderful skill of acquiring and teaching dialects. I had the privilege of working with her on a Directed Study course where she focused solely on teaching dialects to actors and directing them in scenes that require dialects. She has professed that is how she wants to make a career, being a dialect coach for professional actors. I think she will go far. Our department is lucky to have her and we will miss her when she graduates in May 2017.”
-Daryl Phillipy (Theatre Professor)
“I have known her as a student in the classroom mostly. In my experience, Helena is a wonderful, quiet, even meditative, presence in a literature course. She is a careful thinker and attentive listener, and it really is impossible to overstate the importance of those skills. Above all–and this is a rare quality–she is capable of the kind of deep and sustained attention to a work of literature that is necessary for posing intelligent questions no less than for offering creative and incisive responses.”
-Joshua Easterling (English Professor)