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Long-Time Circus Performer Dudley Riggs Flies Without a Net

Improv and aerial acts have a lot in common.

By Kevin Dragseth

Dudley Riggs is a fifth-generation circus and vaudeville performer, a comedian and satirist, and one of the early creators of improvisational theater. He founded the Instant Theater Company in New York, which later moved to Minneapolis and became Dudley Riggs' Brave New Workshop (and later just the Brave New Workshop). Riggs was born to two circus performers in 1932 and began performing, himself, at a young age. As Riggs got older, he drew on performance techniques he learned from his parentssuch as using audience suggestions as inspirationto develop his own brand of instantaneous comedy.  

Editor's note: This story was originally published on April 11, 2019. On September 22, 2020, Dudley Riggs - the Twin Cities showman of sketch comedy and founder of Brave New Workshop - passed away in Minneapolis.

Special Thanks: Pauline Boss, Peter Guertin
Archival Material: University of Minnesota Performing Arts Archive, Dudley Riggs
Production Team: Julie Censullo, Kevin Dragseth, Jim Kron, Eric Pagel

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