Having grown up in South Florida, the first question Tane often gets is, “Why would you move to Minnesota?!” This question has grown from a mild irritant to an infuriating disappointment. The people, landscapes, and culture in Minnesota, in Tane’s opinion, make it a terrific place and the real question ought to be why more folks haven’t figured that out.
Tane majored in Communication Studies at Gustavus Adolphus College. There he also served as Editor-in-Chief of the school’s newspaper, The Gustavian Weekly. He also founded and directed the college’s only improv comedy troupe, LineUs, which thrives to this day.
Following college, Tane maintained parallel lives; one foot in the improv theater world and the other in nonprofit or government work. In 2011, Tane began toying with the idea of marrying his two passions, unscripted comedy theater and big public policy ideas. Tane and fellow improviser and Gustavus alumnus Brandon Boat launched the Theater of Public Policy later that year. In early 2012 they founded their own company, Danger Boat Productions L.L.C. And as if the two didn’t see enough of each other as it was, they were recently tapped by the Minneapolis Institute of Arts to serve as artists in residence bringing improv into the museum.
1) What about your college experience influenced where you are today?
I served as editor-in-chief of the campus newspaper for my junior and senior years at Gustavus Adolphus College. During that time, I felt part of my responsibility was to get students and community members engaged with the decision-making processes of the institution and beyond.
All too often students would share an apathetic hopelessness towards engagement. Many were convinced that their participation would make little difference one way or another. I believed the institution was suffering, as students were the largest basin of energy and enthusiasm, were leaders simply willing to tap them.
Infuriatingly, many old-guard faculty and administrators were delighted to reinforce this assumption, barring students from even entering important conversations about the future of the institution. During my tenure at Gustavus, the secretary of the Faculty Senate actually prohibited non-faculty from making records of their meetings. How were students supposed to engage without even a window into the ideas and debates of faculty and administrators?
A huge motivation for the creation of The Theater of Public Policy was to pull back the curtain on policy-making. I hope we give those who wouldn’t normally consider themselves “policy people” a foot in the door of some really important conversations. At the same time, I hope we demonstrate to thought leaders that even those outside their regular circles have valuable perspectives and energy. Bringing these groups together is our best hope for addressing some serious issues.
2) What is the most exciting thing that you do in your job?
I am extremely fortunate to converse with some brilliant people on each show. Our guests are government leaders, industry insiders, and folks with a passion for changing the world. Better than that, I get to joke around with these individuals, and engage their issue with levity and humor. There is nothing more exciting than talking to someone after a show who says something to the effect of, “You know, I’ve never thought about that issue like this before.” I’m thrilled by the power of comedy to humanize and relate issues across perspectives and demographics.
3) What book should everybody read, and why?
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey. It’s a brilliant parable on the power of arbitrary rules and bureaucracies to stifle change and drive literally anyone to madness.
4) Who or what is inspiring your work these days?
The relatively young organization, InCommons, is working to connect people and communities in novel ways. They’re willing to put time and energy into new endeavors in hopes of building connections, though without the guarantee of success. Taking risks is easy for any organization to talk about. But few are willing to actually accept that this inherently involves occasional failures. InCommons is bravely willing to take real risks in order to affect change, including the wild notion of an improv comedy show about public policy issues.
5) What are you passionate about?
We all have a responsibility to keep abreast of the important issues and questions in our communities and beyond. At the same time, those in positions of authority or disseminators of information have an obligation to make those debates accessible in fair and honest ways as widely as possible. I’m passionate about getting everyone talking and thinking about big ideas, in diverse ways. There are too many problems on too grand a scale for anyone to sit on the sidelines.
Also cheeses. I’m passionate about really good cheeses.