Conner Prairie interpreters Kelsey Van Voorst (left) and Bill Wilkison recently performed together at ComedySportz in downtown Indianapolis.
By Christine DeJoy
Kelsey Van Voorst and Bill Wilkison know how to make Conner Prairie visitors laugh and have a good time. They take their love of comedy and their jobs seriously.
When they’re together, the infectious energy and laughter that permeates the room is obvious.
“You love coming to work because you know it’s going to be fun,” Kelsey said.It’s rare but Kelsey and Bill recently had the chance to perform together at ComedySportz, a comedy club in downtown Indianapolis.
“There was so much love and support on the stage and in the audience. We saw many familiar Conner Prairie faces in the audience, which was amazing,” Bill said. Their team name was even influenced by Conner Prairie, calling themselves the Prairie Wives of Windsor.
Kelsey (left), a Carmel native, became involved in comedy in high school, when she joined the Carmel High School league of ComedySportz. In what started as a weekly release, she now enjoys making a name for herself in the Indy comedy scene by performing every week.
“You definitely have to have energy and don’t want to appear tired or lackadaisical when performing,” Kelsey said. “Sometimes, it’s hard to do a show after you’ve worked all day.”
One of her favorite aspects of performing live is the use of games to warm up the audience, similar to “Whose Line Is It Anyway.”
For Bill (left), he enjoys a challenge and having the opportunity to be vulnerable and honest in the games, something both he and Kelsey do while at work, also.
Originally from northwest Indiana, Bill’s path to comedy started off in an unexpected place – in retail. Prior to landing at Conner Prairie, he was an associate at Crate and Barrel for more than 20 years. Needing a change, he threw his lifelong passion into the performing arts and directed productions at Muncie Civic Theatre.
Then, his wife passed away from cancer. He looked at that life-changing experience as a wakeup call.
“Life is short, so do what you love,” Bill said.
After seeing audition information for ComedySportz, he decided to go for it. Not sure if it was a good fit for him after making the league, Bill didn’t sign up for his first match for almost a year due to his nerves, he said.
As time went by, he felt comfortable enough to hit the stage and has been performing comedy since.
With their background in comedy, it’s easy for Kelsey and Bill to bounce ideas off each other and out to the rest of the interpretation staff. Since their colleagues are so mindful and knowledgeable in the history they portray, the two are constantly surrounded by ideas, feedback and encouragement, they said.
Kelsey and Bill then arrange those ideas and unleash them in creative ways that makes sense for Conner Prairie and on stage at ComedySportz.
You can catch Kelsey and Bill performing throughout the year at the club.