Courtesy of Marty Chandler

Over the weekend, Marty Chandler ’21 presented his senior project in the Theater and Performance Studies major called “Do Your Happy Dance, Jericho!” As a Zoom-based comedy improvisation, the show explored new ways of storytelling and artistic collaboration in isolation. 

“Do Your Happy Dance, Jericho!” is about a Yale student in quarantine at the Whitney Theater for his 22nd birthday. In the show, he decides to have a Zoom birthday party and entertain his guests by performing a long-form comedy improv. For each show, Chandler came up with a different improvised story.

“I decided to explore the idea of what it looks and feels like to do the improv by myself,” Chandler said. “Living through a year of pandemic required a great deal of improvisation already, so I wanted to share this message of taking one day at a time and fully enjoying the time you have, as crazy as it is right now.”

Before the pandemic, Chandler planned to do his senior project along with his friends. When many of them decided to take time off, Chandler had to search for a new idea. 

“Do Your Happy Dance, Jericho!” was partly inspired by other long-form improvs, such as “Middleditch & Schwartz” on Netflix. The show involves a comedy duo that improvises performances based on audience suggestions while playing many characters. Similarly, despite being the only performer on stage, Chandler also took on multiple roles during the show.

As soon as Chandler proposed his revised project last fall, he contacted Jacob Yoder-Schrock ’22 to direct and Eliza MacGilvray ’23 and Sarah Valeika ’23 to coproduce the show. Valeika noted that producing an improv over Zoom was a “unique” challenge.

“But it also opened up a lot of opportunities for us to constantly think on our feet, have fun with camera angles, play around with sounds and light and come up with new ways of engaging the audience in a digital platform,” Valeika added.

Since Chandler was the one allowed to access the Whitney Theater, he had to ensure that everything was planned ahead of time. Months in advance, the team coordinated with the theater studies faculty to schedule visiting times, build a set and arrange remote operation.

“Because we knew from the very beginning that the improv was going to be performed on Zoom, we were prepared and even excited to incorporate technology into the performance,” Chandler said. “Honestly, I felt like it all ended up working so well.” 

According to the team members, much of the show’s success came from the “nurturing atmosphere of collaboration.” Valeika said that she had an incredible experience because she was surrounded by “talented, kind and generous people.”

During the performance, audience members could use the chat function on Zoom to react to the improv, which for Chandler was one of the “most gratifying parts” of the show. Several viewers said the main character’s experience was heartwarming and relatable, and that his dance “got [them] out of [their] seat so quickly.”

“The show just underscored the fact that in our world that often seems scary and isolated, there is still so much joy, hope and a reason to dance,” Valeika said. “If there’s one thing that I learned from the experience of working on this project, it’s just that human beings are resilient and can find an opportunity to connect with each other regardless of whatever distance exists.”

Chandler said the main goal of the show was to incite others to “do [their] happy dance.”

The Whitney Theater, located at the Whitney Humanities Center at 53 Wall St., is the designated venue for theater studies productions.

Tania Tsunik | tania.tsunik@yale.edu