Study Hall was developed with my former PHIT House Team, Asteroid!, for the 2013 Philly Fringe Festival. The idea is built on the Armando improv form. In an Armando, named after improv dignitary Armando Diaz, a performer will tell a story inspired by the suggestion and the group will improvise scenes based on ideas in the monologue.
In 2012 Asteroid! was asked to perform as part of PHIT’s night in the Philadelphia Science Festival. We were paired with Drexel University’s Professor Michael Yudell. We decided to do a modified Armando. For our purposes, Professor Yudell would deliver short lectures based on different topics and Asteroid! would improvise scenes based on the lectures. It went over very, very well. So well that we were asked to do it again at 2013′s Science Festival, which we did with Professor Yudell once again.
Asteroid! was always looking to do their own thing within the Philly Improv Theater. Whether it was theme dressing, holiday shows, or special runs like the Improvised B-Movie. So when 2013 Fringe Festival submission time came around Asteroid! wanted in. We were originally planning on doing our version of the The Movie form, but that was thrown out in favor of what became Study Hall (though naming it Back to School was part of the debate for a while).
The Science Festival shows we did were about 15 minutes. The 4 Study Hall shows we did for the Fringe Festival were each about an hour long. It was one of the best attended shows of the 3 week long festival and did wonders for bringing in new people to the Philly Improv Theater.
In October 2013 Asteroid! ended its run after 3.5 years. Again doing something that separated them from the rest- a two week long run of the Improvised B-Movie. It was another very successful run with several sold out shows, including the final two shows which saw the full Asteroid! cast assembled for their end run. Bert had moved to Las Vegas in August 2013 and Luke had Moved to NY in September 2013. Bert flew in and Luke rode down so that the team would go out with everyone- something else that separated them from the rest. They were one, unchanged unit for years. Twice winning the WitOut Award for Best Improv Group and also taking home a Best Short Run show for their 2012 B-Movie Run. They accomplished a lot as a team an I as their director and I couldn’t be prouder of them even now.
In late 2013 it was announced PHIT would finally be getting its own theater! With that permanent space comes lots more show opportunities. I was originally approached in November about doing a remount of Study Hall in some capacity once things were up and running in the new theater. at first I wasn’t sure exactly how that would happen. Asteroid! was over and I was always of the mind with that team that once we decided to end- we were done. Even if Asteroid! would do it… Bert was in Las Vegas. Luke moved to NY and Brent was talking of doing the same. And Lora wanted to follow some other creative endeavors. So if Study Hall was to continue… It wouldn’t be Asteroid!, so I was kind of dragging my feet on the whole process and idea.
After talking it over with Asteroid! about the possibility I let Ralph know I was officially on board to helm the project again. The show itself, if done well with another good group of people, could hit all of the same points that it did during Fringe with welcoming new people to improv and to PHIT overall. Then this Winter when a date was given I knew I needed to get shit together and if it was going to happen- make it happen and do whatever I could to make it great. If it sucked then, to me, it would kind of tarnish the rep of the show Asteroid! developed. First order of business was seeing who on the original crew was still interested in performing. Thankfully most of them were. AJ, Jess, Caitlin and Aaron were on board. Next on the list was re-enlisting Professor Yudell. He was on board as well. I think maybe he was a bit hesitant as I was with the idea, because both of us developed the show with Asteroid!. Regardless, he was on board.
Then I had to build around the original four. One of the ideas of this show is that it’s monthly and does not meet to practice as often as say a PHIT house team does. So I needed people that were good performers on their own, but that would also slip into this group and complement and supplement the group in place. To behave as a team without the amount of practice that a team might get. I found them. I feel like they have some built in chemistry based on their personalities, but also their play styles and I know that they will only get better and better.
The cast of Study Hall includes some of the most fun and talented improvisers I’ve had the pleasure of watching. David Donnella, Frank Farrell, AJ Horan, Jessica Ross, Andrew Stanton, Becca Trabin, Aaron Unice, Caitlin Weigel, Corin Wells, Addie Weyrich and of couse, lectures provided by Professor Michael Yudell.
To be honest the show sounds kind of odd. Ok, so there’s this professor form Drexel that’s going to talk about medicine and some historical things and then this group of improv comics then do scenes inspired by it… but trust me, it’s A LOT of fun to watch. And you learn something! There’s isn’t any other show like this in Philly that combines these worlds. I of course also like it for the reaching out that it does to other disciplines. This is also the main reason Ralph Andracchio picked it to be part of PHIT’s Dynamite Series, which aims to do exactly that- connect various disciplines and parts of the community to the theater.
The first show is February 22, 2014 at 7:30pm at PHIT. If practices are any indication this show is going to be fantastic. The group that’s been put together is just so. damn. good. And they’re only gonna get better. They’re fun, but the real star is Drexel Professor Michael Yudell who will have you laughing just as much as any of the performers. So grab your note books and some beers and come on down to Study Hall.
Dynamite Series @ PHIT Presents: Study Hall
February 22nd, 2014 @ 7:30pm
Philly Improv Theater