Theater of Public Policy merges politics and improv

A scenes from a past Theater of Public Policy performance.
A scenes from a past Theater of Public Policy performance.
Photo by Tony Webster
If you are looking for a peanut butter and chocolate-like combo of politics and improvisation, the Theater of Public Policy has your meal for the next couple of months.

Each Monday between now and November 25, the group will present a program split between a conversation about a key political issue (or with a policy maker) interspersed with improvised scenes.

"For your regular man on the street who is walking into the theater, this can be really fun. It demonstrates you can talk about these things and it doesn't have to be a dire, sad, afternoon Powerpoint roundtable discussion," says Tane Danger, one of the minds behind the Theater of Public Policy.

The upcoming season includes discussion about climate change, the Minneapolis mayoral race, the changes in modern journalism, and, this evening, a talk about the intersection between states rights and federal law.

"Sometimes in that community, we make things boring almost purposely. I want to demonstrate you can have a good time and still learn something," Danger says.

The program features a mix of discussion and comedy. "We interview them onstage for 10 to 15 minutes. It is substantive, but also fun. We get to actual points about an actual issue," Danger says. "A team of improvisers will take everything that person has said and bring it all to life. They get the chance to take a policy issue and come at it in a different angle. They have fun with it, but they are also trying to grapple with it."

The goal is also to be accessible to both people who are new to the topic and those who are experts. Using humor bridges the gap between the experts and the those with an interest, if not the knowledge, about the issue.

"There is a bad habit in the policy world to make the conversation about jargon or little facts that, purposefully or not, makes it inaccessible. That's why people think policy is boring and that politics is an insider's game," Danger says. "It's humor that sets the table and makes everyone feel comfortable. There are a lot of things in all of these issues we can agree are funny, it doesn't matter what side of the issue you are on. It would be easy to just take somebody down a peg or two. There are plenty of people who already do that and it is not something I am particularly interested in. We can take one of these people and put them on stage and show they are real people, not some great and powerful Oz pulling strings like a marionette."

Along with the development of the conversations on policy, Danger is pleased with where the theater side of the equation has gone over the past five years. "We have a strong improv community; audiences see this is a challenging art form. Improv is one of the only things where you get to see the act of creation and the finished result," Danger says.

"The improvisers are grappling with it and working it out at the same time as the audience. I hope there is an empowering aspect. This team of improvisers is taking this very complex and weighty thing and creating improv scenes in the moment. I hope the viewers think there is no reason they can't think about these issues and come up with their own thoughts and debate them," he adds.


Theater of Public Policy
6:30 p.m. Mondays, through Nov. 25
Huge Theater
3037 Lyndale Ave. S., Minneapolis
For tickets and information about upcoming programs, visit online.

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Huge Theater

3037 Lyndale Ave. S.
Minneapolis, MN 55402


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