Bergren - Senior Partner
Mark Bergren first was stricken by the theater and improvisation bug while a political science major at Western Illinois University. An introduction to theater course taught by a fiery professor (and after-show theater parties) propelled Mark into what is now an extensive career as a director, writer, and performer of comedy & improvisation, as well as a corporate keynote speaker and trainer.
Following college, Mark trained at Chicago’s famed Second City in Chicago, improvising with the likes of SC TV’s Catherine O’Hara and George Wendt of “Cheers” fame.
After five years as a performer at the acclaimed The Brave New Workshop in Minneapolis, he became its artistic director and head writer, and created over twenty original satirical comedy revues. Mark also developed “Acting Through Improvisation” workshops and over the years has personally coached hundreds of students in the art of Improvisation and comedy, many of who have gone on to national prominence in television and film. During this period Mark also wrote and directed over 100 custom corporate entertainment events.
A consultant to Disney Entertainment, Mark accepted a full time position as Show Director and Writer – creative directing shows throughout Walt Disney World, such as the Comedy Warehouse, and the Epcot Performance Company, comedy clubs on board the Disney Cruise Line, and special events such as Walt Disney World’s Anniversary spot on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.
Mark returned to Minnesota to become co-owner of the Brave New Workshop Theater. Now a consultant, speaker and writer, he also produces corporate events, and has been a long term consultant to such companies as the Paris Las Vegas Resort, Kaiser Permanente Health Plan & Hospitals of California, and Disney Entertainment.
Mark is co-author of the business and life skills book, “Improvise This! How to Think On Your Feet So You Don’t Fall On Your Face.”
Jim Detmar - Senior Partner
As a veteran of 30 years of improvisation - student, performer, teacher and director - James relishes each opportunity to bring his breadth of knowledge and true passion for improvisation to the every aspect of the business world.
In the 1984, James found his way to the hallowed Dudley Riggs' Brave New Workshop in Minneapolis, MN. There, James not only co-wrote and performed in 14 original comedy satires, but he also served as the director of Dudley Riggs' International Touring Company. He was later returned to the Brave New Workshop, where he was named the historic theater’s artistic director.
In the 1990's, James uttered those famous words — "I'm going to Disney World!" — And well he did. As a resident cast member at The Comedy Warehouse on Disney's Pleasure Island, James performed over 7,500 all improvised shows, each made up in the moment and delivered in true Disney fashion - funny, razor sharp and clean-cut. James also spearheaded improvisation workshops for the Disney Institute during his Disney tenure.
In addition to appearing in various Twin Cities theater productions at Chanhassen Dinner Theater, Torch Theater, The Theater Garage and the Bryant Lake Bowl; James garnered featured roles in the films Descent of Woodpeckers, Factotum and Carousel of Revenge. James co-authored the longest running show in St. Paul’s history, the interactive comedy We Gotta Bingo for Actor's Theater of Minnesota.
In early 2006 James was named creative director at the Minneapolis offices of Jack Morton Worldwide, and later that year was plucked to serve as associate creative director for Periscope Advertising in Minneapolis, a position he held until 2010. In these two posts, his client list included General Mills, Arctic Cat, Target, Buca de Beppo, Honeywell, Cox Communication and the Minnesota Twins.
We'd like you to meet our talented associates who lend their expertise to many of our keynotes, workshops and events.
Michelle Cassioppi has been working with improvisation groups for both entertainment and educational purposes since 1985. Michelle is an alumnus of The Brave New Workshop founded by Dudley Riggs. She was a company member as well as an instructor. She has also worked with a variety of other local theatre companies, including the Jungle Theatre, Children's Theatre Company, Old Log Theatre, Mystery Cafe, MN Shakespeare Project, Illusion Theatre and the History Theatre.
In addition to facilitating corporate presentations with Out of the Blue for companies and organizations like Cargill and USBank, Michelle teaches improv workshops for high school students at St.Thomas Academy/Visitation High School in Minneapolis. These workshops culminate in 2 full length performances each year.
Michelle also sings with a local Twin Cities band called the Diamond Lake Ramblers.
Shanan is an actor, writer, director, improviser and teacher based in the Twin Cities. Described by Twin Cities critics as a “clever and inventive voice in comic theater,” Shanan is a veteran of the Brave New Workshop, an improvisation/sketch comedy theater in Minneapolis, and has written (as well as performed) in many hits such as 2 Sugars, Room for Cream (Fresh Ink Series 2010, Illusion Theater, Minneapolis), From Here to Maternity (Top Ten selling show in 2007 MN Fringe Festival), Pride and Plot of Pointlessness (both in 2005 and 2009), Mary Loves Joseph: A Wonderful Love Story (with www.pickalineproductions.com), and Actors Theater of Minnesota’s We Gotta Bingo and Tony n’ Timothy’s Wedding. With Hardcover Theater, Shanan co-wrote Johnny Bocca’s Sex Farce for Swingin’ Lovers based on as well as the London After Midnight series, which is running currently at Dangerous Theater in Colorado. Shanan is also a writer for the new educational sketch comedy series for teens “M@dAbout." Shanan is an adjunct faculty at both St. Catherine University and University of St. Thomas where she teaches theater and writing. Shanan also teaches improvisation and memoir classes as a Teaching Artist at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis. Shanan has a B.A. in Theater from St. Catherine University, St. Paul, MN and an M.A. in Theater History, Theory, and Criticism from the University of Maryland, College Park, MD. For Out of the Blue, Shanan has been a keynote presenter and performer for such groups as Target, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Mercy Medical Health, and Cargill.
Lisa Fredrickson has been an ensemble member and teacher at many Improv companies including Seattle Theatresports, SAK Comedy Lab in Orlando, Disney’s Comedy Warehouse, Impro Theatre LA, and Inflatable Betty. She is currently the resident improvisation instructor at California Lutheran University. Lisa has been leading corporate leadership and teamwork seminars for over 15 years for companies like Pepsi, Microsoft and Washington Mutual Bank.
As a facilitator and teacher with Out of the Blue she has worked with a versatile list of clients that include Target, Kaiser Permanente and Oracle.
A working actress, based in Los Angeles, her recent TV credits include “Greek,” “Desperate Housewives,” and “The Tick.” She has been in numerous TV commercials, usually as some sort of uptight mother. She is currently in a masters program studying Spiritual Psychology at the University of Santa Monica.
Mary Thompson Hunt has been a professional improviser for 30 years. She performed as an improviser at Downtown Disney's Comedy Warehouse at WDW’s Pleasure Island. In 18 years at the club Mary performed in the ball park of 15,000.
In addition to improvising, Mary is also an actress, voice over artist, and most of all enjoys sharing what she has learned from the art & discipline of Improvising.
Having trained at over one hundred events and classes, Mary is proud to have worked with companies and institutions such as; Walt Disney Company, Blockbuster, Kaiser Permanente, Black Mayors of America and American International School of Yaounde in Cameroon, Africa.
Mary is currently playing the role of a field producer at the American Idol Experience at the Disney Hollywood Studio’s. She is also less than a year away from a Masters Degree in Strategic Leadership. There are many ‘improv secrets’ that our leaders could use to make greater impact on their constituents. The discipline of leadership and the artistry of improvisation go hand in hand.
"I love seeing leaders discover deeper meaning to teamwork, trust, and creative cooperation. It's a great feeling to be able provide tools and a means for immediate effective communication. Leaders start to envision an ideal work environment with a place and purpose for everyone on their team. The misunderstandings and hard feelings that stifle creativity and productivity amongst associates quickly dissolve. There's nothing like witnessing participants experience themselves and each other differently. This new outlook leads to a more satisfying way of working together with measurably improved work performance". Mary
Hollywood writer/actor/improviser Steve Purnick, is also one of the most sought-after faces in the world of “Corporate Entertainment” and has been a consultant and teacher of improvisation with Out Of The Blue team for seven years.
Steve has been a writer for television, (Nickelodeon, VH1) and for film (screen writer -Lawn and Order).
Steve the actor was a series regular for three seasons on Nickelodeon’s The Mystery Files of Shelby Woo. Other screen appearances include:
- Tom Hanks’ Emmy winning, From the Earth to the Moon on HBO
- The recent films, Nowhereland (w/Eddie Murphy), Under the Same Sky, Crash Landing
- The Tonight Show with Jay Leno on NBC
- Various Nickelodeon shows such as Keenan and Kel, and Figure It Out
- And Ask Rita, World Cup Comedy, and Live with Regis and Kathie Lee, syndicated.
Steve the improviser: For years Steve headlined doing improvisation at Walt Disney World’s Comedy Warehouse, where he starred in over ten thousand live performances - all of them “family appropriate.” He began his Improv career over twenty years ago, with the top Improv groups in New York, and now works regularly with the best in Hollywood.
Steve even toured this past spring with his pal Wayne Brady, from Whose Line Is It Anyway? The Wayne Brady and Friends show played to sold-out theaters across the country.
Jim Robinson is thrilled to be working with Out of the Blue. He has been an actor/improviser/writer in the Twin Cities for the past 15 years, cutting his teeth at the Brave New Workshop and performing on the high seas with the Disney Cruise Line in the Off-Beat Comedy Club.
He co-wrote the hit sensation "We Gotta Bingo" for Actors Theater of Minnesota and has written, produced, and performed in numerous shows of his own including "Love After Hours" and "Whistling Past the Graveyard." He is a co-owner and co-producer for Table Salt Productions, a theater company in the twin cities devoted to producing original works.
Along with his stage work, Jim has written and performed corporate shows for Target, Cargill, Medtronic, and Honeywell, among others. He has also taught improvisation to everyone from CEOs to children and worked extensively in the areas of team-building and brainstorming.
When not on stage, Jim teaches psychology at the University of St. Thomas and at the College of St. Catherine. He has a BA in English from UCLA and a PhD in psychology from the University of Southern California.