The Sunday Interview: Kaci Beeler

Who doesn’t adore Kaci Beeler? And what can’t this woman do? She’s one-fourth of Parallelogramophonograph, the longest continually performing troupe in Austin. She designs all of the Hideout’s mainstage productions. She paints professionally. She dances. She teaches.

And now, she cheers. Starting next week, her latest artistic endeavor arrives: “Blood, Sweat, and Cheers” — a part-scripted/part-improvised play about cheerleading starring and co-written by Kaci.

kaci-edinburgh-flyering

 

KACI BEELER

Age: 26
City: Austin, TX
Number of Years Doing Improv: 11
Primary Web Presence: kacibeeler.com

People

Who’s your improv hero?
Stephen Kearin, one of the improvisers in Three for All from San Francisco and Impro Theater LA. Stephen is made of improv magic. He’s irresistibly watchable onstage, delightfully funny, and cares so much for the art and craft of the work. He is a gentleman on and off stage and I have immense respect for him and his dedication to improvisation as an artform.

You get to do an improv show with any human, alive or otherwise. Who would it be? And what type of show would you want to do with them?
Elijah Wood. Is that so wrong? He’s quirky and interesting and just down to earth enough that I could believe he might actually do it if the occasion were to arise. Would he be up for reprising his role of Huck Finn so we could do some improvised Tom & Huck adventures? Would that be so wrong?

Who, if anyone, first encouraged you to try improv?
Kathy Brown, my theater teacher in middle school. We used to do improv in class occasionally when I was in 7th and 8th grade. It was very loose and probably very bad, but it was definitely improvised. Later my high school theater teacher Beryl Knifton encouraged all of us active theater kids. We even had a Comedy/Improv Class for a semester. She was also the theater teacher of the rest of the guys in The Available Cupholders. And they were the first people I ever saw do improv live (when they were part of a group called The Well Hung Jury) – the was definitely the seed of it all for me.

Who’s the funniest famous person?
Tina Fey. Yeah yeah yeah, maybe it’s cliche to mention her because so many people do, but I’ve doubled over in laughter on many occasions thanks to her smart humor and wit – Mean Girls, 30 Rock, SNL, Bossy Pants, random magazine interviews and quotes, even Date Night and Baby Mama.

Who’s the funniest non-famous person?
Katie Hartman from the sketch duo Skinny Bitch Jesus Meeting in NYC.

The Art

beijing-workshop-group

Beijing Improv w/ Kaci Beeler

Your most memorable improv experience in 30 words or less:
In recent memory it was teaching newer improvisers in Beijing a workshop in a little run down bar in the middle of the Hutongs. Many of them were native Chinese speakers and I needed a translator for parts of it. I’ve never seen people that excited and happy to do and learn improv. The joy in that room was astounding.

The hardest I’ve ever laughed at an improv performance was:
I used to regularly fall out of my chair laughing when I watched The Well Hung Jury perform back in 2002-2004. They did an improvised Shakespeare show all about strumpets where I laughed so hard I cried.

Your biggest onstage improv pet peeve?
Melodramatic over-acting is like nails on a chalkboard for me. Worse than that is people playing another gender poorly or being crass for the sake of shock value. I have left my seat because of these things. Watching bad improv makes me think of death. My own death.

Your biggest offstage improv pet peeve?

When improvisers are manic, shout-y, and demanding everyone’s attention before or after a show. Seriously, let’s slow down and be courteous humans to each other, please.

The warm-up you love the most:
Right now? Making faces in the mirror. Line-up in front of a long mirror (like the one in the Hideout greenroom). Have people take turns calling out emotions, character traits, animals, whatever. Adjust your body and face to fit the word that was called out. I usually find it really funny and it gets everyone moving and reacting.

The warm-up you hate the most:
Song circle. I can’t think of new songs while other songs are being sung, no matter how hard I try. So that warm-up doesn’t do much for me. Also, it can get really loud. Loud doesn’t always equal focused or energetic. I don’t like loud warm-ups. They make me shrink into a ball or exhaust myself.

Your “go to” move when you’re lost or confused in a scene is to:
Make eye contact and/or physically touch my scene partner.

Your “go to” character or character trait:
Someone who is lovably dumb.

The best way to connect with the other person in the scene is:
Look them in the eyes and give them an endowment they’d have fun playing with, “You look anxious, grandpa, you want me to get your shotgun so you can shoot that ole rabbit once and for all?”

The second best way to end a scene is:
A kiss.

You’re publishing a short manifesto entitled “My Personal Improv Philosophy.” What are the titles of the first three chapters of that book?

  1. Commitment Is Everything
  2. Finding Failure Funny
  3. Make The Work You Wish You Could Watch

The Bidness

Approximately how many hours have you spent as a student in an improv class? Ballpark it:
Gah. Over 90 or so hours? I never took weekly improv classes, but I’ve taken my fair share of workshops and intensives over the past 11 years.

kaci-lady-wafflefestWhat’s the coolest venue in which you’ve done a show?
PGraph did our improvised French Farce show on a old vaudeville stage in Providence that just happened to have a Parisian bar/hotel set on it. The set had 2 floors, multiple rooms, and at least 6 doors that were ripe for running in and out of. This stage had HUGE amount of playing space and I loved having all that room to jump and move around in. It was luxury. We also got our own giant dressing room for the whole weekend. We felt like kings.

Got a good improv festival story?
When we first did the Chicago Improv Fest in 2009 we had some issues. We showed up to our venue in make-up and costumes after getting ready in a mall bathroom because there was no where else we could go. While Valerie and I were doing our hair the female cast of Tony and Tina’s Wedding came bursting into the bathroom to do a bit and we scrambled to make room for them. When we finally got to our venue we were told to wait outside until our set. It was raining out. We warmed up under a bus awning in the dark. When it was time for us to go on, Cody Dearing, who happened to come to watch our show (he was living in Chicago at the time), came outside to get us. If he didn’t I’m pretty sure we would have missed our cue. Is that a good story? I think it’s funny now because all of that stuff made it difficult for us to do a good job, but we made it work anyway. That’s what it’s all about in the end, making it work no matter what.

Have you personally spent more than $1,000 on improv related expenses in your lifetime (not counting gas)?
Haha! Yes.

More than 5,000?
Certainly. I’ve traveled a lot for improv and those expenses add up quickly.

The funniest troupe or show name you’ve heard:
Vintage Whine – This is a group of senior citizens in Sarasota, Florida.

The Future

Your 2013 improv goal:
It’s in progress. Get Blood, Sweat, and Cheers up on its feet and use improv throughout the process to keep it fresh.

Your lifetime improv goal:
Improv World Tour with Parallelogramophonograph. We make money on this tour.

Your goal at your next show:
Play a variety of diverse characters and give my troupe-mates a good time.

What is the one thing you’d like people to think when they think back on your as an improviser?
She was inspiring.

Analogies & Errata

Q: If my improv were a _______________ it’d be ______________:
Example: If my improv were a superhero it would be The Hulk.

-Breakfast cereal: Lucky Charms

-TV show: Bonanza

-Baked good: A Chocolate Chip Cookie baked with sea salt

-College class: Obsession and Devotion 301

-Piece of technology: iPad Mini

-Geographic feature: Fire Rainbow

-Song: Sorry For Party Rocking – LMFAO

Have you dated an improviser? Have you married one?
I dated one and then I married him! I highly recommend it. His name is Roy Janik. We weren’t supposed to date since we were in the same troupe. We broke that rule. It’s worked out so far.

The worst thing that’s ever happened to me during a show was when:
I was 18 and couldn’t think of what to say at the beginning of a game and left the stage to go cry in the hallway. True story. This is Dave Buckman’s first memory of me and he reminds me of it at least once a year.

pgraph-goodman-group

If I could wear only one outfit in every improv show for the rest of my life it would be:
School girl chic. Pleated skirt with shorts underneath. Knee socks. Saddle shoes. Fitted blouse and tie.

The difference between a good improviser and a bad improviser is:
The ability to accurately read yourself and others.

What’s the longest period of time you’ve gone without performing any improv since you began?
2 months while I was in Germany studying abroad. I got so antsy I started doing “bits” for the others on the trip with me whenever we were bored during travel.

I have an improv crush on:
Courtney Hopkin

The Hypothetical

It’s a tale as old as time: Because of your rudeness to a homeless gypsy woman, she curses you. The curse, known in Romania as Klok dáng, presents an interesting dilemma for you…

You’re instantly blessed with perfect improvisational talent. Perfect. Everything you do in improvisation is the ideal. Every line is exactly what the scene needs at that moment. You’re funny when the audience needs funny, and you’re heartwarming when they’re feeling a bit cynical. Your physical movements redefine the discipline. Your spacework is so realistic that the more entranced members of the audience would swear you were holding an actual coffee mug. You are handsome but malleable and can play any status required of you. You can do all formats and genres. You’re infinitely watchable onstage, and yet you maintain humility and deference to the art form.

In other words, you are the best improviser the world will ever know.

With that talent comes some nice fringe benefits. You’re a bigger deal than Del Close and Keith Johnstone rolled into one. You’re the messiah of modern improv, and you get plenty of opportunities to perform. Everyone’s dying for your time and wisdom. They pay you enormous sums to fly all over the world doing whatever show you want, with whomever you want. Your influence and talent makes you rich, famous (but not too famous!), and well respected. Life is grand.

Except for one thing…

Every time you use the word “you” or “I” in an improv scene, somewhere in the world a baby koala suffers an aneurism and drops dead on the spot.

Now, there are plenty of koalas. They aren’t endangered or anything. You’re not going to drive them to extinction with your deathly powers. It’s just simply this: If you say “you” or “I” in a scene, a koala drops dead.

Gatorade, who for some reason has decided to sponsor you, calls you up one day to finalize your plans for a new worldwide “Improv Guru” tour. Five million bucks, the finest hotels and travel in the world, and tens of thousands of fans cramming into theaters to watch you perform.

The Gatorade rep on the phone says to you, “So! We’re very excited to get you out there on the road. But first, we need to know if you have any conditions that would prevent you from starting this latest tour. Anything at all?”

What do you say?

“I want to make sure there are lots of healthy snacks and water wherever I go, Mr. Gatorade, you got that? Also, my troupemates and I want to go to Tokyo Disney.”

If I’m really that good of an improviser, I’ll just ask to do a show where I speak in the third person and only use proper nouns for others. It’ll be Victorian and English.

“Ms. Scuttleshoe needs to let me, Mrs. Henrietta Featherflea tell her what to do. Mrs. Henrietta Featherflea is delicate and won’t stand for petulance.”

BAM!

If I slip up, well, that baby Koala was probably gonna keel over soon anyway. I’ll just use some of my enormous piles of money to make Koala Foundations for The Making, Birthing, And Keeping of Koalas.

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Be sure to see Kaci Beeler in “Blood, Sweat, and Cheers” at Salvage Vanguard Theater in Austin. May 30 – June 9. Tickets available here.

3 Comments

  1. […] but I’ll be secretly grumpy about it. As a side note, I see that I am the third Andrew Buck interviewee to identify this game. Can we kill […]

  2. […] Beeler (the interview) Austin’s answer to Amy Poehler, Kaci Beeler is a world-touring, successful renaissance woman […]

  3. JIMMY DORSEY on September 8, 2014 at 9:15 am

    what was your favorite part Kaci?

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