During shutdown, Somerton resident brings new life to theater

Somerton resident Laura Bonacci hopes to use her artwork to advertise and animate theatrical productions.

Artwork by Laura Bonacci

Laura Bonacci’s senior year at Arcadia University didn’t end the way she expected when COVID-19 shut the school and the world down. The Somerton resident thrived in the audience of theatrical productions, when she would blindly sketch what she was seeing on stage. Without those live audiences, the artist was without a muse.

Or not.

“Actors from across the country have asked me to make drawings from photos,” Bonacci said.

In her artwork, she tries to capture the spirit of the actor on the stage, such as how powerful they felt at a particular moment in the show. Since shutdown, she’s been making a living creating freelance work of such moments.

Bonacci graduated from George Washington High School, where she was active in the art club. She went to Arcadia to study art therapy, but it wasn’t until a couple of years into her time there that she discovered her love of theater and decided she wanted to focus fully on creating art.

Her work is inspired by Al Hirschfeld, a caricaturist born in 1903 who was known for his work depicting Broadway performances. She followed in his work creating live blind sketches while she watched the production from a dark audience.

She took up the habit last summer. Now it’s her passion.

“Once everything starts to reopen, I hope to use my art as opening-night animations or illustrations for the cast to advertise the show,” she said.

Since shutdown, she’s learned to animate her work, capturing facial expressions of actors like Ben Platt in the popular Broadway show Dear Evan Hansen or capturing the dancing of Liza Minnelli in Cabaret. Her work can be found on her Instagram page, @LauraBonacciArt.

Growing up in Somerton gave her access to the city, and she would take trips to view artwork and get inspiration. Her father kept plenty of art supplies in the house, and she would scrawl drawings and splash paint on large rolls of paper as a kid.

She created her art Instagram page while a junior at George Washington. Along the way she took an advanced drawing course and a figure drawing course, which taught her to see the world “wrapped in lines” instead of just edges.

“It was a new way of looking at the world and I knew I could use it going forward,” she said.

When the world returns to normal, Bonacci hopes to work with theaters in New York and Philadelphia by using her artwork as marketing. She also wants to help art and culture nonprofits.

“I’m hoping once the city opens I can go see the sights and be inspired by people,” she said. “I’m inspired by everyone around me.” ••