Thursday, April 20, 2017

"Flying Funny": The unusual gravity-defying first act of improv theater's founding father, Dudley Riggs.


"Fliffus."

"Word Jazz."

"Instant Theater."

Now we know it as Improvisational Theater.

The father of improvisation and founder of the Brave New Workshop in Minneapolis in 1958, Dudley Riggs grew up in the circus. His parents were circus performers and as a young boy, Dudley was thrown into the exciting, adrenaline-fueled world of performance. His younger years were spent mostly on the road until he reached college age, settling by chance in Minnesota and floating an idea he had held in his head for some time about applying the Freudian technique of "free association" to theatrical performance. A friend told him to lay off "improvisation"—that was the territory of jazz music.

This idea took on many iterations, all of which are detailed in Dudley's new memoir, Flying Funny: My Life without a Net, which includes a foreword by Al Franken. On Wednesday, April 19, the University of Minnesota Press and the Brave New Workshop hosted an evening to celebrate the book's publication and the wondrous early life Dudley lived that led to the Brave New Workshop's successful creation and evolution into the longest running satirical comedy theater in the United States.


While on tour in Italy with the circus, Dudley Riggs
purchased this espresso machine, which served as the
fuel for Riggs' Cafe Espresso, the birth place
of the Brave New Workshop.
The machine was so foreign to local licensing authorities
that they forced Riggs to get training as a boiler operator.

Brave New Introduction: University of Minnesota
Press director Doug Armato introduces Dudley Riggs
to the stage, apologizing for bringing a
scripted speech (gasp!) to an improvisational theater.

A circus-style juggling act before Dudley Riggs
takes the stage.

Riggs on stage with Brave New Workshop's co-owner
John Sweeney.

A full house.


After the Q&A with Sweeney, Brave New Workshop performers
improvised scenes inspired by chapter titles from Riggs' memoir:
"The Circus at War," "Clown Diplomacy," and "Never Let Them Know
You Can Drive a Semi."

A post-Q&A reception with classic slides from Riggs' career.

Autographing new books, hot off the presses.

207 East Hennepin Avenue in Minneapolis was the original
location Riggs selected for his theater.

The Brave New Workshop would go through a few more location changes,
including two locations in Uptown Minneapolis,
before arriving at its current location in downtown Minneapolis.


Check our website for more Flying Funny events.


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