Back to the Workshop, or Everything’s Fine! at Brave New Workshop in Downtown Minneapolis

(L-R) Denzel Belin, Taj Ruler, Lauren Anderson, and Doug Neithercott. Photo by Dani Werner

Brave New Workshop returns with it’s first show since being closed down for the pandemic in 2020. This Iconic Hennepin Ave. Institution has reopened having been purchased by the Hennepin Theatre Trust to ensure its continued presence and to build upon it’s over 60 year legacy. The new show which opened in May and continues through August 6th is titled Back to the Workshop, or Everything’s Fine!. I went anticipating seeing Lauren Anderson perform, who is someone I’ve seen and admired in other productions. Unfortunately, on the night I attended her role was being filled by Artistic Director Caleb McEwen. I was sad not to see Anderson perform and wish her a speedy recovery; however, I have to say well done to McEwen! If he hadn’t informed us at the beginning that he was filling in, we would never have known it. He did a fantastic job and never for a moment seemed unsure of what he was supposed to be doing. Of course for all we know he completely departed the text and the the other performers. Denzel Belin, Doug Neithercott, and Taj Ruler are phenomenal improvers, improvrs, improv’ers… hey how the hell do your pluralize someone who improv’s?, who made it seem like whatever he said was part of the script. What’s fantastic about this show is whether it’s Anderson or McEwen, improv or scripted, it’s all pretty great.

The first two acts of the show are a series of skits dealing with various aspects of the Covid Pandemic. It’s a little scary how close to the truth some of these outrageous scenes come, but you know what they say, it’s funny cause it’s true. Whether addressing how we all had months and months of shelter in place and somehow became less productive, or navigating the awkward adjustments of going back into the office after over a year of working from home, the target of the jokes is all of us. There something in this show that everyone is laughing at that you did, and the joy of the show is it helps us laugh at ourselves, so that we don’t cry. Aside from pandemic situations the show also addresses other topics that have made the last two years unique. The performers don’t shy away political topics, from Black Lives Matter to Don’t Say Gay, they find the humor while bringing the truth. The third act is a short session of improv which in the hands of such talented performers is always a treat. I definitely recommend sticking around for the improv at the end. One piece of warning though, I’m always hot and I was cold in the theater, bring something to put on your arms and wear long pants.

It’s so good to see performers back on stage at the Brave New Workshop. This is the perfect topic to tackle, what better way to recover from these past two years than to laugh at those past two years. Clever and witty, it’s the collective laugh we all need to begin to put the pandemic behind us. Give yourself the treat of laughing into the face of the pandemic, it won’t change it but it will help you put it in perspective and it will definitely make you feel better. For more information and to purchase tickets for Back to the Workshop, or Everything’s Fine! go to You deserve it, we all do after the last two years.

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