Described by many as “the guru,” a “creative genius” and “the premier influence on modern improvisational theater,” Del Close,the actor, writer comedian is perhaps best known for creating ‘the Harold,’ a type of long-form improvisation that became the basis for many other improv games and structures that he developed in collaboration with his partner, Charna Halpern. The Harold is now performed by improv groups all over the world.
Close believed that improv was an art form in and of itself and was adept at creating intensely thoughtful games, exercises, and structures that moved improv beyond just a series of exercises for actors or short games rooted in comedy to extended performances organized on a single theme, driven by story, relationships and structure.
In the early 1980s, Del was brought to NYC by the producers of Saturday Night Live to work with the cast and train them in improvisation. Upon hearing that Del would be in New York, actor, improviser and comedian Joey Novick, who had met Del though some early Improv Olympics performances (a precursor to Improv Olympic and later iO) invited him to lead a series of workshops. Del agreed and said that as long as Joey organized the workshops, Del would be there to teach and people could attend for free.
And so began an the process of the unveiling of a series of exercises or “structures” as Del called them, one of which was “The Quest.” The Quest remained largely forgotten until 2014, when Joey Novick reintroduced it at the Applied improvisation Network Annual Conference in Austin, Texas.
Participants quickly recognized that the structure, was not only a good exercise for trained improvisers (for whom it was initially created) but it was also great tool for introducing a broad audience to the benefits of improvisation and storytelling in a unique, powerful, non-performative, and sometimes life-changing way.
Some participants, including Joelle Sarralih, Akshay Sateesh and Jeanne Lambin were so enthused by the exercise that they decided to work with Joey Novick towards creating Quest days around the globe and, in 2016, celebrating the first ever The Quest: World-Wide Edition on March 9, 2016 to kick off World Wide Quest month (in honor of Del Close’s birthday).
As is the case with the Harold, the Quest has been updated and adapted from Close’s original format and in 2015, Quest workshops were held in Hong Kong, Shanghai, Chicago, Austin, Philadelphia, and at the regional AIN Meeting in Dumaguete, Philippines. In October of 2015, the Quest was included as a Learning Journey at the Applied Improvisation Network Conference in Montreal, where the exercise was introduced to over 40 improvisers and trainers from around the world.
In 2016, Quest workshops have been held in Trondheim, Norway; Copenhagen, Denmark and Helsinki, Finland. To kick off World Wide Quest Month, workshops are scheduled in New York, Hong Kong, Copenhagen and London.