The Purple Crayon of Yale, or the Purple Crayon, is an improvisational theater group at Yale University in New Haven, CT, United States. The group specializes in longform improv, such as the Harold. The Purple Crayon is Yale's second-oldest improv group, after the Ex!t Players, and the oldest collegiate longform group in the country.
The Purple Crayon was founded in 1985 by Eric Berg, class of 1987, and a bunch of theater friends. Berg had taken a semester off during his sophomore year to study improv at ImprovOlympic in Chicago, Illinois, where he learned the Harold, a long-form improv format developed by Del Close and Charna Halpern. The group named itself after the popular children's book Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson, whose protagonist, Harold, uses a purple crayon to draw his imagination into reality.
The group performs several shows each year on campus, appears at various comedy festivals, performs at (usually local) events and locations, and tours each spring and fall. Performances mostly consist of one or two 25-minute Harold sets, though the group often experiments with various styles and forms.
Among the improvisation, theater, and comedy festivals in which The Purple Crayon has appeared are the National College Comedy Festival at Skidmore College, on and off since its inception in 1990 by 30 Rock producer David Miner; the Bellwether Improv Festival at Ohio State University; Brown University's College Hill Longform Improv Festival; the Slate Comedy Festival at The George Washington University; the Out of the Loop Festival at the WaterTower Theatre in Texas; and the annual Del Close Marathon run by the UCB Theatre in New York City.
In 2010 and 2011, the Crayon advanced to the finals of the East Coast Regionals of the College Improv Tournament, a national competition hosted by the Chicago Improv Festival, losing to Seriously Bent, Suffolk University's improv troupe and the Otter Nonsense Players, Middlebury College's improv troupe.
The Purple Crayon was recently featured in an article called 12 Colleges with Great Improv Groups.
- Phil LaMarr - actor, known for his roles in MadTV, and the voices of the Green Lantern in Justice League, Hermes Conrad in Futurama, the title characters in Samurai Jack and Static Shock, and as the guy who gets his head blown off in Pulp Fiction.
- Greg Pak - film director and comic book writer
- Alex Rubens - writer, known for Key & Peele, Community, and Rick and Morty
- Jeffrey Stock - Broadway composer of Triumph of Love
- "About" from the Purple Crayon website Archived 2011-02-08 at the Wayback Machine.
- "A Competitive 'Sport,' Harold, Takes the Stage," December 2, 1985, The New York Times
- "The 'Improv' Scene," December 1997, Yale Alumni Magazine Archived 2008-11-20 at the Wayback Machine.