Tane Danger ’07 is passionate about civil discourse and is passionate about humor. It’s why he founded the LineUs Improv Comedy Troupe at Gustavus and it’s why he co-founded The Theater of Public Policy after earning his degree in communication studies. The success of the latter venture is one reason why Danger has been named a Bush Fellow for 2014.
“I look at this as sort of a stamp of approval and an endorsement of the work that I’ve been doing through the Theater of Public Policy,” Danger said. “It’s exciting that the Bush Foundation looked at my work and thought that it was important and valuable enough that they wanted to support it and see it grow.”
Danger and fellow Gustavus alumnus Brandon Boat ’08 started the Theater of Public Policy in 2011 with a goal of making public policy issues more accessible to the general population through humor. A typical show begins with Danger having a conversation with an expert on a certain public policy issue. The theater’s group of improvisers then takes the information from that conversation and repackages it through long-form improvisational theater to help the audience engage with big ideas in interesting, creative, and humorous ways.
After a successful run of shows at the HUGE Theater in Minneapolis, the idea has gained in popularity and Danger has subsequently taken the show on the road. Places like the Mayo Clinic, the Minnesota Department of Transportation, and the Minneapolis Institute of Art have hired the group to do shows at their locations. Last fall, Danger and his cohorts put together a special forum during the Minneapolis mayoral race that included six of the leading candidates at the time. The event was covered by the Star Tribune and was lauded for helping candidates have a meaningful and humorous discussion without reciting talking points – something that is extremely attractive to younger voters who might have grown weary of the political process.
“Tane is being recognized for his truly pioneering work in creating a new space for civil discourse. During a time when partisan rancor is at perhaps the worst point since before the Civil War, he correctly saw humor as a way to bring audiences together and to involve people in public policy discussions who might otherwise resort to partisan talking points,” Gustavus Associate Professor of Communication Studies Phil Voight said. “I think Tane’s understanding of the type of approach that would appeal to members of his generation is spot on, and I’m thrilled that the Bush Foundation is recognizing it.”
The Bush Foundation was established in 1953 by 3M executive Archibald Bush and his wife, Edyth. The foundation invests in great ideas and the people who power them in communities across Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota. Bush Fellowships are designed for people who have already demonstrated exceptional leadership abilities, but who feel they could accomplish even more for their community with focused, intensive leadership development. Nearly 400 people applied for the 2014 Bush Fellowship as applicants were asked to describe their vision for strengthening or contributing to the common good of the region and to explain how they would use a Bush Fellowship to achieve that vision. After being named one of 60 semi-finalists, and one of 36 finalists, Danger was one of 24 individuals named a Bush Fellow for 2014.
“I’m planning on using my Bush Fellowship to pursue a master’s degree in public policy at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs,” Danger said. “At the same time I’ll be able to continue my work with the Theater of Public Policy, which is very fortunate because not a lot of people have the chance to go to graduate school and work on their own project like I will be able to do.”
With a thriving improv comedy troupe and a Bush Fellowship in hand, Danger can’t help but look back to his time at Gustavus and how his four years on the hill helped him get to where he is standing today.
“A lot of my work at Gustavus in the Communication Studies Department was critical to what I’m doing now,” Danger said. “I studied quite a bit with Terry Morrow on issues such as political communication, political rhetoric, and first amendment issues. I also took a lot of classes with Phil Voight and what he was able to teach me about parody and satire was really important to me.”
Danger is also quick to point out that his experiences at Gustavus outside of the classroom were equally beneficial to him.
“Founding the LineUs Improv Comedy Troupe was where I cut my teeth and learned how to do improv and run a troupe,” Danger said. “Working for the Gustavian Weekly taught me how to balance ideas and opinions. Those were really formative experiences for me and at least as important as my classroom experiences.”
The Theater of Public Policy, which has become popular at colleges and universities across the state, recently performed at Gustavus. The show included guests such as nationally recognized economist Chris Farrell and Gustavus Professor of Philosophy Lisa Heldke. The topic at hand was whether or not College is worth it. Based on Danger’s story, the answer for him would have to be “yes.”
Several Gustavus alumni are regular improvisers for The Theater of Public Policy, including Maggie Sotos ’09, Andrew Haaheim ’09, and Logan Martin ’06. To learn more about The Theater of Public Policy, go online to t2p2.net.