Image courtesty of the Theater of Public Policy
What does an improv group do when its guest of honor cancels day-of-show? Is a no-show the ultimate prompt? Do they reschedule? Pull someone from the audience? (This last theory seemed unlikely, but just in case I picked a seat near the canned goods collection barrel—it’s always good to have a hiding place in reserve.)
That was the challenge posed this week to the Theater of Public Policy, a 12-ish member improv group that performs Mondays at Bryant Lake Bowl. The show is part Q.A. with a local government figure or academic and part skit, the latter half sourcing material from the former. The format enables experts and audience members to exchange perspectives on public issues—and gives the cast an opportunity to wildly interpret all angles of the topic, and maybe make a few up extra.
So it should be no surprise that T2P2, founded in 2011 and sponsored by nonprofit brewer Finnegans, which offers discounted beer at the show in return for the aforementioned canned goods—can nimbly navigate a hiccup like an unexpectedly vacant interviewee chair. It was about noon on Monday when word of Lieutenant Governor Tina Smith’s cancellation reached T2P2 co-founder Tane Danger (that Danger might really be his real last name is an idea too fun to sully by seeking out the truth).
Three hours and one 19th century feminist rhetoric course later (Danger orchestrated the entire reorganization between grad school courses), the Lt. Governor’s office had connected the Theater with a replacement—which in turn gave Metropolitan Council Chair Adam Duinick just three hours to prep for the 7 p.m. performance.
“I didn’t actually talk to Adam at all until he arrived at the Bryant Lake Bowl,” Danger said.
Duinick arrived by bus (only fitting, as the Met Council helps build and manage public transportation), and proceeded to deliver astute answers to both Danger’s questions and those from the audience, none of whom seemed ruffled by the change in headliner. The improv troupe re-envisioned comments about an aging demographic, the Southwest LRT, and, inevitably, sewer management. Notable among skits was a bit where two members impersonated the light rail itself.
Danger interviews with much self-deprecation, which cushions the good-natured heckling that naturally arises during the program. In his welcome speech, Danger hastened to refute the notion that Duinick was a sort of “less attractive, second choice for prom,” reassuring us that, “He’s got a great personality!”
Danger’s ease at addressing current events—he is pursuing a master’s degree at the Humphrey School of Public Policy—gives him the dexterity to ask questions that elicit thorough answers (read: we learn stuff!) and also set up the guests to become comedians themselves. Everyone is allowed to be funny on the stage.
And despite my precautions, T2P2 also offers a safe experience for shy attendees: aside from taking audience questions and Danger’s constant request to “Sit at the front—the show is funnier from up there!” the show stays on the stage. The season finale falls next week, before taking a holiday hiatus and returning in the spring. The group also performs for private events. t2p2.net