Brave New Workshop doesn't take sides in latest political revue

Taj Ruler, Matt Erkel, Bobby Gardner, Lauren Anderson, Andy Hilbrands, and Josh Eakright.
Taj Ruler, Matt Erkel, Bobby Gardner, Lauren Anderson, Andy Hilbrands, and Josh Eakright.
Photo by Dani Werner
Caleb McEwen has a question for you.

"Have you ever had a heated political debate with anyone and had them change their mind?" asks the director of Brave New Workshop's latest revue, The Rainbow Election: Mommies and Mormons and Gays, Oh My! "It's rare for someone to take in information, process it, and change their point of view. Most political decisions are emotional. The actual facts don't seem to matter."

Politics have always been a part of the troupe's history, which spans over 50 years. The current climate and election cycle certainly provide plenty of material.

"One of the challenges of this show is that so much material comes up and there are so many things that you want to cover that you can't possibly get it all in," McEwen says, noting that during the previews there was almost an entire act of additional material in the show.

Politically, Brave New Workshop tries to hew a non-partisan path, taking shots at those of any political stripe. That can make audiences upset, says McEwen, who is also the company's artistic director.

"We did a show that hit Obama last fall. Our own last show was really hard on the liberal left," he says. "If you break this show down joke by joke, the harshest ones are on the Obama administration. You can try to balance it all you want; people will get mad at what they want to get mad at."

"I don't take particular joy in just making people upset. The show can be much more scathing toward Obama and the democrats, and we get comments that all we did was bash Romney. By the same token we hear, 'How dare you say that about Obama! Why didn't you hit Romney?' You want people to think about these things and look at both sides, no matter what side you are on," says McEwen.

Though the show focuses on the election, other issues get their day in the sun, whether it is issues of race or the war on women.

The six-actor company (Taj Ruler, Matt Erkel, Bobby Gardner, Lauren Anderson, Andy Hilbrands, and Josh Eakright) builds the show with McEwen. Different points of view are present, but are dealt with in what the director hopes is a civilized manner.

"I can't remember a knock-down fight. We do disagree about things, but we deal with them in a civil manner. If we couldn't walk the walk, we wouldn't have lasted this long," he says. "We are very good at seeing different points of view, and have come to a conclusion that everyone can abide by."

The piece will remain flexible throughout its run, which nearly takes it up to election day. "We rewrite things every day. We take sketches out and put something else in. We don't know what is going to remain relevant and what will disappear really quickly," McEwen says.

And he hopes people will take the political satire to heart and see "there are always multiple ways to look at any issue. The rhetoric has heated up so much, and the country is divided so much that there is a 'what I believe in, and everyone else is an idiot' mentality. If you back off and look at both candidates and parties, there are way more similarities than differences. No one is evil and no one who has made it this far in government is a complete and abject idiot. We want you to laugh about it and realize that we do have more similarities than differences and unless we talk about them, and recognize each other as human beings, things will not get better."

Oh, and don't forget this is a comedy revue.

"Honestly, pound for pound, this is one of the funniest shows we've done for an election for quite some time," he says. 


The Rainbow Election: Mommies and Mormons and Gays, Oh My!
Brave New Workshop
824 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis
Previews through Thursday; opens Friday and runs through November 3
For tickets, call 612.332.6620 or visit online
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Brave New Workshop Downtown Stage

824 Hennepin Ave.
Minneapolis, MN 55402


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