For Rick, improv is a family affair: Passing on the love of improv

In the early 90s a friend and I were debating where to move—the Twin Cities or Chicago. We spent a week in the Windy City visiting friends, experiencing the city, and seeing shows. Then we did the same in the Twin Cities. We both loved Chicago but the Twin Cities had a more vibrant theatre scene. Not to mention, most performers here in the cities were being paid! All of our actor friends in Chicago worked temp jobs and did shows for free, while our friends in Minneapolis and Saint Paul were earning a living through acting and performing. During my visit to Minneapolis, one of our stops was seeing a show at Dudley Riggs’ Brave New Workshop. I still remember to this day that the show was phenomenal. The venue was intimate and the show was undeniably hilarious. I remember sitting in the theater and thinking, “This is amazing.” So, before I knew it I had picked up and moved to Minnesota, and less than two years later I auditioned to be on the BNW mainstage…and somehow was cast! At my audition I met the woman who would later become my wife, and luckily, we both made it in. The two of us were on the mainstage together for three years. Naturally, when the Student Union announced that it would be adding a youth and teen program, my wife and I knew it would be something we’d want our kids to be apart of.


When thinking about how the improv mindset has improved my life, I cannot imagine living a full life without it. It’s all about saying yes, agreeing, and embracing new experiences. Being a person who goes through life saying “no” to things, well, there’s no fun in that. Learning how to “say yes”, embrace challenges, explore new ideas, and to collaborate with others–it’s tremendous. To say that improv has personally changed my life may be an understatement.


My children have grown tremendously in the time that my children have been involved with the Student Union. My oldest daughter has been through the program and has since moved on to college, lived in Norway for a year, and worked on staff at different summer camps. I think the improv training she received through the Student Union really helped her embrace and accept the challenges that naturally came with those situations. My middle daughter is currently involved with this program, and she has also grown leaps and bounds. She has made friends that she never would have made before. She has experienced change as a human being and as a young woman, and I love seeing what improvisation has done to help her see the world through a lens of “YES.”


As a parent I could not be prouder to send my kids to the Brave New Workshop Student Union. I know that this is a great place for them. Through all my interactions with the staff at the Brave New Workshop, through my experience as a performer here, I always know that when I drop my daughter off that she is in good hands. Logistically, bringing my students to the classes is so easy and the pick-up and drop off is a breeze.  Downtown Minneapolis is a beautiful, thriving, and safe place. I love being able to bring my students here to experience this city! My favorite part is when my family will come to Minneapolis for the youth and teen showcases. We will drop off our performer for their warmups, and then the rest of the family and I will walk around and enjoy the sights and energy of this great city until the show begins. All in all, I feel very safe leaving my kids here. It is a secure building with great staff that cares about the safety of my children.


I truly cannot say enough good things about the program that the Student Union offers for young people. Participating in this program the students get to work with such a broad range of instructors, all of whom have different areas of expertise. Over the course of a year the students learn so many different styles and techniques, and the growth is so easy to see in their showcases. The instructors are top tier, and they are truly what makes this experience so quality.


When I meet other parents and hear them say “I don’t know what to do with my kids”, I recommend youth and teen courses with the BNW SU without hesitation. It is fun, it is engaging, and it is a new experience. Improv training though the Student Union prepares kids to be more thoughtful and compassionate adults. It isn’t about performing, it is about students learning to treat their lives as more than just school, chores or sports. These experiences teach students connection to other humans and in this world that is so very valuable.


The three main reasons I would recommend these programs are…

  • Getting Out and About– This is a new and unique experience that isn’t likely in your neighborhood. You must go to it, and that’s a great thing.
  • Embracing Changes– It teaches people a way to embrace the changes that life has to offer, and when you’re a teenager you are going through more changes than most other times in your life.
  • Identifying Connections– It helps you make connections. You make connections with people in your class, and you find the things that link you together. With this skill you really begin to view life differently.