Trailblazer Award

Every year in recent history we have named someone our TRAILBLAZER.  This is someone who made a difference in our improv community, as we take a look at the history of our young art form on a local level.


2019 – Jane Greenwood, Brave New Workshop

Jane Greenwood began improvising at Brave New Workshop in 1974, and continued for 15 years. Jane travelled the world doing improv– –and got paid to do it! She was a single mom with three kids and made it work. She has entertained in half of the United States, the Caribbean and the Mediterranean. She even performed with a broken leg and hobbled around San Francisco on crutches (no cast, because they didn’t know it was broken) and just went on like a good improv soldier.
Years later, she fell off a horse. Literally. And her broken leg was diagnosed. Jane also loves horses. They have been a part of her life for as long as she can remember. They make her calm, very ZEN.
Jane was awarded the 2019 Trailblazer of the Year Award at the Tiny Funny Women Fest. She has also appeared as a Special Guest at HUGE Theater’s Space Jam and she plans to keep doing more improv and spreading her joyous, contagious energy for a long, long time!


2018 – Lauren Anderson, Brave New Workshop

Lauren Anderson is best known for her work at the Brave New Workshop. She has appeared in Brett Favre’s Christmas Spectacular II: The Second Coming, Spilling Me Softly; or Once the Gulf Goes Black it Never Goes Back, Toyota! The Runaway Musical Hit!, How to Make Love Like a Minnesotan III: The Full Montevideo, Brett Favre’s Christmas Spectacular: The Immaculate Interception, The Brave New Workshop Saves the Planet; or Yes We Can, But Do We Have To?, How to Make Love Like a Minnesotan II: Love is in Bloomington, How to Make Love Like a Minnesotan: Sleepless in Shakopee, All I want for Christmas is 700 Billion Dollars: Our 50th Noel, The Lion, the Witch, and the War Hero; or Is McCain Able?, The Brave New Workshop at 50: Old Enough to Know Better, Stuck in the Manger With You; or Carol On, My Wayward SonYouCube: This Company Loves Misery, and many others! She is also a member of the improv groups Five Man Job and a cast member of Show X at HUGE Theater.


2017 – MTV’s Jill Bernard

Jill Bernard has been performing with ComedySportz – Twin Cities since 1993, and is a founding member of HUGE Theater in Minneapolis. Her one-woman improv piece, Drum Machine, has been featured in over forty improv festivals. She has taught and performed improv in Argentina, Australia, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Colombia, England, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Peru, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden Switzerland, the United Arab Emirates and in over forty of the United States; and also on an episode of MTV’s Made. She is one-half of the duo SCRAM with Joe Bill of the Annoyance Theater. An Artistic Associate of the Chicago Improv Festival, she has studied at the Annoyance Theater, Improv Olympic, the Brave New Workshop and other organizations; and is the recipient of the 2005 Chicago Improv Festival Avery Schreiber Ambassador of Improv Award, and the 2007 Miami Improv Festival award for Best Solo Show. She was also the winner, in January 2000, of the Executive Vice President Award for outstanding contribution to Human Resources, the highest award in the American Express Human Resources function.


2016 – Mary StrutzelComedySportz – Twin Cities

Mary Strutzel joined ComedySportz in January 1993, and quickly became a fan favorite.  When the players walked out to protest management, Mary and two business partners stepped in to save ComedySportz. She went on to serve on the executive council of CSz Worldwide over the years, most recently as president, presiding over the guiding body for ComedySportz and other CSz productions in 25 US and European Cities.

As longtime ComedySportz player Linda Blocksom Daly puts it: “Mary saved ComedySportz. She brought justice to all of the women and men who were performers in the mid-90’s, and built an incredible business that has lasted more than 20 years. If it hadn’t been for Mary’s vision, tenacity, business sense, and big huge heart, many of us would never have performed again. She believed in comedy, in ComedySportz, and she believed that talent could be discovered, developed, and celebrated.”  Mary ceaselessly makes incredible opportunities for women improvisors, and ensures that they are treated with equity. 


2015 – Pamela MayneStevie Ray’s Comedy

Pamela began her association with Stevie in 1988 when they co-directed a Minneapolis comedy- variety club. They eventually took over the club to create Stevie Ray’s Improv Company. As Artistic Director, Pamela directs the productions at Stevie Ray’s Comedy Cabaret. She alone holds the distinction of being able to tell Stevie he’s not as funny as he thinks he is. When not helping to run the company, Pamela tries to keep her four boys from jumping off the roof with a parachute made out of a bed sheet.


2014 – Jenni LilledahlBrave New Workshop

Jenni  is co-owner of the Brave New Workshop with husband John Sweeney, and serves as executive director of the BNW’s school, the BNW Student Union. Considered a founding mother of modern improvisation study in Minnesota, Jenni has endeavored the past 20+ years to bring the mindset and tools of improvisation to as many people as possible. Outside of the BNW, the hallmark of Jenni’s community involvement is her work as co-founder of Gilda’s Club Twin Cities, a cancer support organization that opened in 2014.