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Dudley Riggs, a fifth-generation circus aerialist who performed all over the globe, originally founded The Brave New Workshop as the “Instant Theatre Company.” Riggs assembled and led a talented group of writers and performers intending to make people think by first making them laugh.

The company opened off-Broadway with a show consisting of vaudeville-style sketches, burlesque blackouts, and something completely new: the use of audience input in the creation of “instant theatre.” This “theatre without a net” would be the beginning of comedic improvisation as it is widely known today. After touring nationally, Dudley and his “Instant Theatre Company” found a permanent home in the Twin Cities in 1958 and, the name Brave New Workshop was added in 1961. In 1997, John Sweeney and Jenni Lilledahl purchased the Brave New Workshop from Dudley Riggs as co-owners to ensure long-term sustainability and honor the unique history of the theater. In 2021, Brave New Outpost became its own company. Hennepin Arts purchased the Brave New Workshop and the Dudley Riggs Theatre (824 Hennepin) to steward the theatre’s rich world-class sketch comedy and improv tradition.

Since the beginning, the Brave New Workshop has made its home on Hennepin Avenue – first in the original East Hennepin location, then in uptown from 1961-2010, and now at the Dudley Riggs Theatre (824 Hennepin). In the more than 60 years since its founding, the Brave New Workshop has produced more than 400 original productions and exposed over 4 million people to the theatre’s unapologetic and unwavering brand of sketch comedy and improvisation. Check out our recent shows here.

Remembering Dudley Riggs

January 18, 1932 – September 22, 2020

Founder, Brave New Workshop, The longest running satirical sketch comedy theatre in the United States

More on the history of the Brave New Workshop Comedy Theatre