Study Hall — lead by a Drexel Professor — performs at Philly Improv Theater
Study Hall is an improv group that performs once a month at Philly Improv Theater. The group’s leader is one of Drexel Dornsife School of Public Health’s own professor Michael Yudell. The show, directed by Mike Marbach, exhibits a way to make history humorous. The cast is able to bounce ideas off each other and work coherently on the spot, which is impressive and funny to watch. The show might be especially comical for a history or health enthusiast.
The show originated in 2012 as part of the Philadelphia Science Festival and, after two years of performing at the festival, has continued to perform once a month for the past five years. Professor Yudell, whose research interests include the history of public health and health disparities, began the show April 19 by sharing academic insight on niche historic figures such as William Buckland, known as the man who ate everything, including the mummified heart of King Louis XIV. After Yudell’s short synopsis and stories of what Buckland was like as a historic figure, the improv group performed skits relating to the material.
The show also was performed on Good Friday and Passover. To celebrate this holiday the group also performed a short display of a Passover Seder which featured feelings towards matzah and family members discussing politics at the table. Additionally, as any public health enthusiast might imagine, jokes also included thoughts on anti-vaxers in today’s society. With a wide display of topics to perform on, the cast was able to keep things fresh and interesting throughout the hour long show.
The Triangle was also able to interview Dr. Yudell on his improv group.
TT: How did the group start?
Yudell: The show originated as part of the Philadelphia Science Festival in 2012. I was invited to tell stories with a group of improvisers from the Philadelphia Improv Theater group Asteroid. We performed our first show together at what was then the Chemical Heritage Society. After two Science Festival runs, we were invited to perform as part of the Philadelphia Fringe Festival in 2014. After the show’s success in the Fringe Festival, we moved to a monthly show at the Philadelphia Improv Theater, where Study Hall has been performing together for five years.
TT: What motivated you to start doing this?
Yudell: A combination of good luck and my desire to tell a good story. When I was asked to do the original Science Festival show years ago, I was invited on the premise that I could tell true stories from history to actors who would dramatize the history of public health and science. To my surprise, the material wasn’t met to be dramatized, but instead to be twisted, satirized and laughed at, which has made my monthly run with Study Hall one of best things I get to do every month.
TT: Do you have any information about the next show?
Yudell: Our next show is June 21 at 8 p.m.
“I think the best thing about Study Hall is that it is where history meets improv, and every month I, and the occasional guest, get to tell true stories from history, politics and my wacky life that the Study Hall cast transforms into hilarity on the spot. The comics I work with are all amazing, and I am always grateful for the opportunity to laugh along with them and the audience at our crazy world and at myself,”professor Yudell said.
Overall, Study Hall is a great show to go to, especially as a public health student or history enthusiast. It is a way to learn about less known figures and historical happenings while laughing at the end of the week.