Kaci Beeler – Up Close and Personal

This year’s 11th Annual Sarasota Improv Festival will bring over 20 troupes from around the world to Sarasota for a whirlwind weekend of laughter. One person you will see sprinting from one performance to another is Kaci Beeler. Kaci is a member of  not one, but TWO Austin-based improv groups, Available Cupholders and Parallelogramophonograph (Pgraph, for short).

Keep reading to get to know how Kaci juggles being part of two improv groups, which comedians inspire her, and how the improv world has evolved over the past 15 years.

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Kaci Beeler. Photo by Steve Rogers.

How’d you get into improv?

My high school had a great fine arts program and I already loved theater and art. We did a lot of improv in my theatre classes. Our teacher, Ms. Knifton, really encouraged it. She actually taught all of the Available Cupholders our first improv classes. We all went to the same high school, but all graduated different years.

So, when I was still in high school, the Cupholder guys were all in college and had a troupe called The Well Hung Jury. They did a lot of super experimental improv, and I watched a lot of their shows. I loved them and their improv so much, but I never thought that I could do it myself. It just seemed like they were a bunch of good friends who were very funny together. So, some of my classmates wanted to be like them, and started an improv practice group and invited me. I was 15 at the time – that was 17 years ago.

And you’ve kept at it since you started.

Yes. I did improv all throughout high school while also doing scripted plays and taking art classes. When I was 18, I joined Parallelogramophonograph (Pgraph), and when I was 19, I joined Available Cupholders and dove deep into improvised theatre.

Fun fact: I’m the only non-founding member of both of those troupes. It felt like winning the lottery back then. Now, it’s just a part of my life. But obviously a big part of my life.

In addition to being an improv comedian, you’re also a visual artist, playwright, and stage and film actor. Where do you find the time?

I’m currently freelancing full-time, which is lovely because I make my own schedule. That means I can stay up late writing a new script or designing artwork for a client and then get up the next morning and run to a commercial audition across town, take a big nap, and then lead an improv rehearsal or show that evening.

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Valerie Ward, Roy Janik, Kaci Beeler and Kareem Badr of Parallelogramophonograph.

Who are some of your comedy and/or improv heroes?

Kate McKinnon, Molly Shannon, Ali Wong, Natasha Demetriou, and my fellow troupe mates from both PGraph and Available Cupholders – you honestly can’t work with people for this long – over 12 years – and not have a little hero-worship.

Word has it you’ve been to almost every Improv Festival, which is not an easy feat. How has the Festival evolved over the years?

It’s grown so much in terms of audience size and audience love, as well as their understanding of improv.

How so?

In the early years, I felt like the audience was often confused about what we were doing and why (even if they loved it), but now I think it is much more understood — you can have a chat with people after a show and the conversation is often about the deeper themes and nuances, not just, “Did you really make all that up?”

Making improv up on the spot is definitely an awe-striking part of the art form, but there’s so much more to what we do and why we do it. Improv can be an extremely alive, vibrant, and connected live performance experience. It’s more authentic than so many other forms of entertainment because it works with the energy of the moment — and not just the energy of the other performers on stage, but the audience’s energy as well.

A hot and connected improv show is a live theatre experience unlike anything else. That’s why I’m still doing it after all these years!

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Bill Stern, Michael Joplin, and Kaci Beeler perform at the 9th Annual Sarasota Improv Festival.

We hear you’ll be appearing with two improv groups this year, how will you pull it off?

For a long time, it was just the Available Cupholders that came to Sarasota each year. It was like our little improv retreat together, but the more I came to the festival, the more I realized what a good fit PGraph would be. Will Luera agreed, so for the past 3 years I’ve been juggling playing with both groups, which means double the shows and double the workshops.

I thought it would be easy, but several times now I’ve had to run through the back of the theater to get from the end of one show to the start of the other. I’ve even gotten on stage out of breath! I think the only way I pull it off is, honestly, because I’ve done improv for so many years. You could drag me out of bed and I’d put on a show in my living room right then and there if I had to. Please don’t do this, I love sleep!

Keep an eye out for Kaci Beeler, whether she’s onstage with  Pgraph or Available Cupholders, or taking a much-needed break, at the Sarasota Improv Festival. For tickets, click here.

Portions of this interview were quoted in The Observer’s preview of the 2019 Sarasota Improv Festival. Used by permission.