If you can’t find Kiera Shackelford working in the bookstore or giving campus tours to prospective students, you know where to find her: on stage in Theatre Margot.
The junior music major and theater and psychology minor spends so much time in the theater because she’s had a role in every production since she came to the college in the fall of 2014.
But her acting experience is not limited to the 10 Franklin College productions she’s been in for the past two years.
She’s held a role in more than 20 plays since she started acting in seventh grade, including ones in the Theatre Margot, at Merrillville High School and in the community theater in Merrillville, Indiana.
Shackelford said she wouldn’t know what to do with herself if she wasn’t acting.
“Acting is really what I want to do with my life,” she said. “I feel like I would feel weird if I wasn’t doing something on stage. I wouldn’t know what to do during my time.”
When her acting career began, Shackelford had no intentions of making a career of it. Her middle and high school best friend, Toni Smith, encouraged her to be in a production, and Shackelford was reluctant to agree.
“I thought that I wasn’t going to be good at it, but I thought, ‘Whatever, I’ll try it,’” she said. “And I did it, and I fell in love with it.”
Smith passed away last year, and Shackelford said she considers her to be the biggest inspiration in her acting career.
“I continue it for her,” she said. “If I could at least perform on Broadway once, I would feel like I accomplished something.”
Shackelford has already attempted to make it big.
Last spring, she auditioned for the musical “Hamilton” in New York City. Although she didn’t nab a role, Shackelford said the experience was worth it.
“When I finally did sing, the guy said that I did really great,” she said. “It definitely was a confidence booster, and I had a lot of fun going there.”
Shackelford said the other actors auditioning for “Hamilton” were surprisingly welcoming to her.
“I was expecting it to be a lot of people who were like, ‘Oh, we know everything. We’ve been in New York,’” she said. “But everybody was super nice. We all warmed up together, and we were singing together. It was a nice cool vibe. We were all supportive of each other.”
This camaraderie is evident within Franklin’s theater department, as well.
“Everybody is super close in the theater department,” Shackelford said. “Even with the professors. We’re on a first name basis with them. You don’t get that everywhere, so that’s super cool. My best friends are in my theater family.”
Shackelford said her favorite performance was in her role as Cinderella for a high school production.
“Obviously, I’m not the typical looking Cinderella. I’m not the blond hair, blue-eyed Cinderella,” she said. “But kids would come up to me and truly believe that I was Cinderella. That was my moment where I was like, ‘I actually want to do this.’ I just like that I’m making people happy by doing something that I’m enjoying.”
After graduation, Shackelford said she hopes to start auditioning for roles in Chicago, which is near her hometown.
She also has dreams of being a music therapist.
“Right now, I’m kind of just going with the flow and seeing how my life is,” she said. “I’m not quite sure where I want to go yet with life.”
For now, Shackelford said she will continue auditioning for every production at the college.
“I’m just going to keep on chugging,” she said. “Even if I’m not in a show, I’ll probably be stage manager or something and still be involved somehow, just because I love being in theater.”