Who the Hell Is This Kaci Beeler, Anyway?
We figure, okay, there's that Beeler on the cover of this week's printed Chronicle, ornamenting her own article about the pole-dancing classes at Brass Ovaries, and she's never written for us before, maybe you'd like a bit of context?
Of course, it was our readers who voted Beeler "Best Actress" in our annual "Best of Austin" readers' poll this year, because they like what the lady does onstage and in the various TV commercials she's brightened the pitches of. But there's always more to a person than just an industry résumé; so when we say bit of context, we mean bit of context. Like this:
Austin Chronicle: Kaci, where are you from originally?
Kaci Beeler: I was born in Long Beach, California, which isn't very far from Los Angeles. It's just another part of the SoCal megalopolis sprawl. When I was five years old my parents moved us to Amarillo, Texas, because they didn't think L.A. was a very good place to raise my two brothers and I. From there we moved on to Possum Kingdom Lake, Texas, for a few years and then ended up in Round Rock. I went to Chisholm Trail Middle School and then Westwood High School (for the Fine Arts Academy).
AC: And what brought you to Austin?
Beeler: When I was a teenager I would come to Austin from time to time to hang out on The Drag and see local theater by companies like the Rude Mechs and Salvage Vanguard, and improv shows by the Well Hung Jury at The Hideout Theatre. I was falling in love with Austin by the time I was 18, but I was determined to head back to my birthland for college. After 5 months attending Cal State Fullerton in Orange County, I was done with that place. I could see the kind of person I would need to become to thrive there at that time, and it worried me. Coming back to Texas (and Austin specifically) was the best decision I've ever made. My improv troupemates in Parallelogramophonograph (PGraph for short) picked me up at the airport and, after a stop at Waffle House, we went to my very first practice with them. Three days later my (now) husband Roy Janik and I went on our first date. That was seven years ago and my troupe is still together and performing weekly and my marriage has never been better.
AC: And what keeps you in Austin?
Beeler: So many things! I have a house with Roy here, right in South Austin. I have so many wonderful friends here, most of them improvisers. They're the most supportive people in the whole world. I find Austin itself stunning. When I drive up South Congress toward The Capital, I think "Hello, Beautiful!" when I see the skyline. I'm in love with this city. I see cool art and theatre that inspires me. I have several close relationships with creative partners and we've made so much work that I enjoy and believe in. I have a weekly show with PGraph that we've somehow been doing for six years nonstop (and I don't want to stop!).
I've heard Austin referred to as "a retirement community for young people" (I think Jerm Pollet was the first person I heard that from), but I don't quite get it. In my experience, the low-key vibe of Austin has no effect on the caliber, quality, or prolific nature of its artists. The atmosphere lends itself toward a wide variety of eclectic and impressive works of all kinds, often with a truly genuine feel. As a creator, I feel supported, welcome, and challenged here. Austin has always made me feel at ease in my own skin. I've met and become friends with so many chill, down-to-earth, honest creators here. I am very fortunate. I get to travel a lot, mainly for improv, so that fulfills my wanderlust. Coming home to Austin is always a great feeling.
AC: And how the hell do you find time to do all the things – live improv with several different troupes, graphic design, commercial acting, helping run the Hideout, oil painting – that you do?
Beeler: I try to fill my time with active creation, as opposed to passive consumption. I don't watch a lot of TV, movies, or sports. I have a flexible weekly schedule due to being a freelancer, so I flit from project to project. I like new challenges and I find that my varied pursuits help to keep me balanced. With 12 months in the year, I can shift my main focus from month-to-month to kickstart a new project. In 2011 I was able to do a month in Vermont for a painting residency and a month in Edinburgh performing at the Fringe Festival with PGraph. The residency led to my "Food Porn" solo show at the SVT Gallery and the Edinburgh performances did nothing if not strengthen my abilities to perform in the most unusual and off-putting of situations – and if you're going to try acting in film and commercials, you have to be comfortable in the most uncomfortable of set-ups. This year my schedule allowed me time to perform and teach improv in England, Korea, China, and Japan. Opportunities pop up and I say, "Yes!" and see what happens.
I want to do all the things! I have trouble saying "no" to anything that sounds remotely interesting. The downsides - I probably don't sleep enough and we recently had to hire a maid because our house was a wreck.
AC: And what was it that appealed to you about reporting on a pole-dancing class?
Beeler: I've really been enjoying trying new physical things lately. Yoga, Dancing, and Nia classes around town. Workout DVDs at home. Running and hiking. I knew Pole Dancing classes existed in Austin and I was genuinely curious about them. I was at a party a few years ago where the hosts had a pole-dancing room and I tried it out. It was fun, but soon dudes at the party started leering at the women trying out the pole. Not so fun. To me, learning pole dancing in a group-class setting sounded appealing. And besides, what did I really have at stake? I figured if I looked dumb or I sucked at it, it would probably still be interesting to write about nonetheless.
[Note: Next up stagewise for Kaci Beeler is tonight's performance
with Parallelogramophonograph in The Spectacle at the Hideout: Fri., Dec. 28, 10pm.]