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Dudley Riggs papers

Identifier: PA111

Scope and Contents

This collection consists of many materials ranging in date between 1946 and 2014. Collection includes correspondence; administrative records such as business meeting minutes, financial documents, contracts, and correspondence; publicity materials such as brochures, posters, stickers, pins, programs, promotional photographs, and fliers, along with PR announcements, newsclippings of reviews and various publicity; audio visual materials such as VHS tapes, DVDs, reel to reel audio, records, cassette tapes, and CDs. There are also some theater props and costumes such as clown shoes, clothing, clown noses, bow ties, and top hats.


  • Creation: 1946-2014


Conditions Governing Access

Open for use in the Elmer L. Andersen Library reading room.

Conditions Governing Use

This collection may be protected by the Copyright Law of the United States (Title 17, U.S. Code). It is the user's responsibility to verify copyright ownership and to obtain all necessary permissions prior to the reproduction, publication, or other use of any portion of these materials. Researchers may quote from the collection under the fair use provision of the copyright law.

Biographical / Historical

Dudley Henry Riggs VI was born on January 18th, 1932 in Little Rock, Arkansas. He was the fifth generation to be born into a show business family and worked, starting at age five, as a circus aerialist, movie actor, vaudevillian, writer and stage director. He graduated Fairmount High School in 1951 and later attended the University of Minnesota.

Dudley started in circus in 1937 with Barney Brothers Circus and stayed with them until 1942, traveling with comedy acrobatics, trapeze, and horizontal bars. He also traveled with Barnes and Carruthers Palace Productions from 1938 to 1941, Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus in 1947, Bertram Mills Circus from 1948-1949, Blackpool Tower Circus in England in 1949, E. K. Fernande All-American Circus in 1952, and Sacco-Shubert National Vaudeville Circuit in 1953.

After stepping away from the circus, Dudley remained in the spotlight, first starting Instant Theater Company in New York from 1954 to 1958 before moving to Minneapolis. He first opened Cafe Espresso in 1958 on University Avenue in Northeast Minneapolis and eventually moved to 207 East Hennepin Aveue. The cafe boasted the first espresso machine west of the Mississippi. The cafe regularly provided improvisational performances.

In 1961 Dudley teamed up with Minneapolis reporters Irv letofsky and Dan Sullivan, along with cartoonist Dick Guindon and others to write and perform satirical reviews under the name Brave New Workshop. In 1965, Brave New Workshop moved to 26th and Hennepin where it remains. In 1971 Riggs opened a second theater called Dudley Riggs' Experiemental Theater Cafe (ETC) in the West Bank area of the University of Minnesota, which remained there until 1991 when it closed. In 1997 Dudley passed along Brave New Workshop to owners John Sweeny, Jenni Lilledahl, and Mark Bergren. They changed the name to The Brave New Workshop, founded by Dudley Riggs in 1958.

Dudley's first wife, Ruth, passed away in 1968. They had one son, Paul Riggs. In 1988 he married University of Minnesota professor Pauline Boss.

In 2017, Dudley published his memoir Flying Funny: My Life Without A Net.


100 Linear Feet (103 boxes -- 94 paige boxes, 1 hollinger box, 1 half size hollinger LP box, 7 oversize boxes)

Language of Materials



This collection consists of the personal papers of Dudley Riggs and the business records of the Brave New Workshop, a sketch and improvisational comedy theater based in Minneapolis that was founded by Dudley Riggs.


This collection is arranged into series:

Series 1: Brave New Workshop

- Sub-series 1: Administrative records and correspondence

- Sub-series 2: Publicity and reviews

- Sub-series 3: Scripts and production development

- Sub-series 4: Creative services department

- Sub-series 5: Touring

- Sub-series 6: Auditions, classes and workshops

Series 2: Circus material

Series 3: Audio/Visual

Series 4: Theater props and costumes

Dudley Riggs papers, 1946-2014
Kate Dietrick
September 2019
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Collecting Area Details

Contact The Performing Arts Archives Collecting Area