On his deathbed, Edmond Gween was asked if dying was difficult. "Dying is easy," the actor replied. "Comedy is difficult."
If Gween had lived a minute or two longer, perhaps someone could've asked his opinion of improvisational comedy; that high-flying/no-net variety of comedy performed at Minneapolis comedy institution Brave New Workshop.
Founded in 1958 by Dudley Riggs, the Uptown improvisational theater has ushered in several generations of local comedic talent.
One of the ways the Workshop fosters new crops of performers is by handing over its stage to up-and-coming talent in its Brave New Institute, a training center for improv and acting.
Erin Farmer, spokesperson for the Workshop, said, "The whole improv community here in the Twin Cities has really been growing rapidly."
The Workshop's Sketch Fest 2005, begins Friday, June 17 and features actors/writers from the Brave New Institute in sketches they've created.
Farmer said the fest "is an opportunity to get some of these other performers on the Brave New Workshop stage so that folks out there can see a little bit of the future of comedy around here, as well as an opportunity for us to get some stage experience for some up-and-comers, who we might eventually want to introduce into our ranks. So it's kind of like a talent-development thing for us."
She said the students at the Institute all begin at the same basic level - appropriately known as Level One - and work their way up through the ranks to Level Five, the level of the Sketch Fest performers.
"Level Five is kind of like a graduate program, where they're actually learning sketch writing," Farmer said.
John Haynes, Brave New Institute director, said the Sketch Fest spotlights the performers' writing and acting skills rather than improvisational talents.
He said he's been working with the performers who've created "Dr. Schadenfreude's Carnival of the Soul" (Fri. June 17, 10 p.m.; Sat. June 18, 7 p.m.; Sun. June 19, 1 p.m.).
"Some of the ['Carnival of the Soul'] sketches are looking at the suffering of others and the fact that sometimes there is a certain level of joy in watching them go through things in life that may be difficult," Haynes said.
He said one sketch would poke fun at the recent rise in gasoline prices, while another will try to make people laugh at a man arrested for possession of the sinus medication Sudafed.
Other performances include "Hobo's Guide to the Galaxy: License to Beg" (Fri. June 17, 8 p.m.; Fri., June 24, 10 p.m.; Sun. June 26, 1 p.m.), "Designer Genes, or Does This Butt Make My Butt Look Big?" (Sat., June 18, 9 p.m.; Sun., June 19, 3 p.m.; Sat. June 25, 7 p.m.;), "Diet Cherry Vanilla Pope: He's Just Not That Into You" (Fri. June 24 8 p.m.; Sat. June 25, 9 p.m.; Sun. June 26, 3 p.m.).
Tickets for all shows are $5.
For more information, call 332-6620 or go to www.bravenewworkshop.org.
Minneapolis artist Suzanne Howe is a combination of the painters she loves: Dutch masters, American impressionists and the great pointillist, George Seurat.
"I'd like my paintings to make people feel good," Howe has said of her work. "To remind them that life does have continuity and beauty."
Her paintings glamorize tiny splendors; birthday cakes, glasses of beer and bowls of cherries. Like the small, still scenes immortalized in her work, her paintings exude a sense of timeless triumph; humans can't be entirely bad if we can create petite fours nestled in neatly folded white paper.
Howe's art is on display through June 25 at Flanders Contemporary Art gallery, 3012 Lyndale Ave. S. For more information, call 344-1700 or visit www.flanders-art.com.
MOSAIC's 'Liberation in Progress'
Just as good artists are works in progress, so too is the struggle for civil rights. Complacency is the death knell in both cases.
The link between art and civil rights can be found in the theme of the fourth annual Pride Art show, "Liberation in Progress," opening Friday, June 17 at Calhoun Square Gallery, 3001 Hennepin Ave. S.
The juried and judged exhibit showcases artwork from local and national GLBT artists.
The event is sponsored by GLBT Pride/Twin Cities. The group's public relations director, Bill Nienaber, said the show's theme highlights the struggle within the GLBT community for equal rights.
"It reminds us that although there are injustices that have been overcome, the civil rights movement is a work in progress," he said. "We picked it largely to remind the community that our liberation is still in progress and that it's not finished and that people need to stay involved and fight for their civil rights."
Visit www.tcpride.org for more information.
The show is a part of the summer-long Minneapolis MOSAIC 2005 arts festival.
Other Southwest MOSAIC events include "From < to" (pronounced "from is less than to") at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, 2501 Stevens Ave. S. through Sunday, June 19. The exhibit features the work of 15 Midwestern and Canadian artists exploring notions of moving from one place to another, both physically and artistically.
Call 374-8700 or go to www.mcad.edu for more information on this free show.
The Minneapolis Institute of Arts, 2400 Third Ave. S., will show "The Water Remembers: Recent Paintings by May Stevens, 1990-2005," June 11-July 31. The contemporary American painter and activist's work explores people and the transient nature of time, place and life.
Call 870-3131 or visit www.artsmia.org for more information on this free exhibit.