Of all the theatrical events I have sketched, I have never seen a sold out house. When I entered the Winter Park Playhouse on the second night of the festival, Brian Feldman seated in the front row said to me, "Get up on stage and sketch, this is the audience we should have had." He was referring to "Thomas Thorspecken Sketches the Audience" where we only filled at most a quarter of the seats. Tonight every seat was taken. I watched "The Arm" improv group from Atlanta. I was there to spend time with Terry since she had left early the night before without seeing a show. She recognized some of the the scene structure since we lived in NYC. We laughed the whole show, even when one comedian during a fast-paced routine stood center stage and blurted out, "I got nothing." He laughed, was pushed aside and someone else took over.
We decided to stay for the next performance which was "Some Like it Improvised" from Austin, Texas. This act consisted of the duo of Roy Janik and Kaci Beeler. I wanted to sketch this go around, so I asked Mark Baratelli about sketching the audience from the sound and lighting booth. Mark pointed out Cody Bush, the tech, and so I followed him up to the booth. We walked through the dressing room past a couple in 1930s period clothes. In the back room there was a rickety ladder made of two-by-fours that ascended into a hole cut in the ceiling. It was a tight squeeze with my backpack of art supplies. It was dark up there so I pulled out my book light. The audience poured in as I sketched lightly in pencil. Every seat was filled. People finally had to sit in the center aisle.
Roy and Kaci were amazing. They performed one long improv show that involved them being bootleggers after the prohibition. Kaci would change characters on a dime. Some of the remarks made were so absurd it is amazing they kept their forward momentum. Since probably half the audience were improv comedians, it felt like the room was rooting for them. This was like watching a feature film being improvised on the fly. A stunning performance.
I knew I only had about 45 minutes to sketch so I rushed. After the show everyone crowded into the lobby. Brian Feldman was talking to Terry. He pulled me aside and said, "You should have been sketching the performers. Kaci is a sketch artist just like you." He insisted I walk up to Kaci and ask her if she was an artist. I did so while Mark filmed the meeting on his digital camera. It turns out Kaci sketches set designs besides being an improv actress. She has a girlish charm while on stage, and can be the femme fatale as well as a comic. After this show, Terry was tired and wanted to go home. For once I joined her, since I had my sketch and an amazing success story.