UCB Alums Launch Squirrel, a Nonprofit NYC Comedy Theater

Meet New York Metropolis’s latest (and, for now, digital) comedy theater.
Photograph: Squirrell Comedy Theatre/Instagram

Seven months after the Upright Citizens Brigade introduced the closure of its New York theater and training center, UCB alums have banded collectively to create a brand new sketch-comedy and improv theater of their very own. Introduced at present is the launch of the nonprofit Squirrel Comedy Theatre in New York, which was co-founded by former UCB New York inventive director Michael Hartney alongside former UCB performers and lecturers Lou Gonzalez, Patrick Keene, Maritza Montañez, Corin Wells, and Alex Music-Xia. Wells informed Vulture the group was impressed by the formation of Project Rethink in June, a gaggle of numerous West Coast–primarily based veteran UCB performers who organized to demand extra transparency and involvement with how the comedy theater was run. “All of us got here collectively again in June with comparable visions of what a profitable, inclusive, financially secure community-first theater may appear like,” Wells stated. “And we determined to attempt to make it occur.”

Per the theater’s mission statement on its website, the Squirrel’s objective is to turn into “New York’s premier vacation spot for sketch and improv comedy, with world-class stay exhibits and lessons from a various group of town’s greatest and brightest performers and writers.” The guiding rules of the theater can be “neighborhood, illustration, transparency, and equality,” and the web site notes that equality will start with the theater “financially compensating its artists.” The mission assertion provides that the Squirrel, whereas impressed by the coaching that UCB provided, will tackle “a brand new structural and organizational method extra in keeping with the desires and desires of the better comedy neighborhood.”

Range can also be a key component of the Squirrel’s mission. “Beginning with its majority-queer and POC foundership, we wish this neighborhood to extra carefully resemble the colourful melting pot of town we’re in,” the mission assertion continues. “By making certain that there are numerous voices in management, on our phases, and in our school rooms from day one, we’ll entice extra numerous audiences and college students. The Squirrel won’t merely give range a seat on the desk; will probably be the desk.”

Resulting from COVID-19, the Squirrel’s launch this week is a digital one, with an introduced schedule of upcoming on-line lessons and streaming exhibits on YouTube. “We’re launching this in the course of the pandemic as a result of we miss comedy, however perhaps simply as a lot we miss the neighborhood surrounding it,” Music-Xia informed Vulture, noting that since it would take some time till stay theater returns, it’s vital to the founders to “hopefully attain new individuals and teams who may not have discovered comedy lessons and exhibits as accessible earlier than.” Lessons will value $265, and the theater will supply “need-based scholarships to college students from marginalized backgrounds in addition to pay-what-you-can workshops,” along with “free lessons to college students from marginalized communities.” The group hopes to safe a bodily area as soon as the pandemic permits for stay theater once more, so the founders are at present requesting donations through the Squirrel website, which is able to go towards each the “constructing fund” and funding scholarships and free lessons.

“We cherished our time at UCB — the comedic instruments we have been taught, the sense of neighborhood,” Hartney informed Vulture when requested what classes the group members are taking from their time at UCB to construct Squirrel. “We need to protect these issues whereas additionally ensuring we now have illustration and inclusion from day one, a agency deal with on the enterprise facet of issues, and, once we get again onstage, that artists get a lower of the door.”

“On the finish of the day, it’s about management,” Gonzalez added. “We hope to rebuild a neighborhood that has been form of deserted, and we consider this group can and can do this. Squirrel Theatre is a spot the place we cannot solely help one another however uplift and empower voices which were ignored by the very establishments we got here from. Proper now, we’re small, so there’s solely a lot we will do. Nevertheless, with time, care, love, and being humorous badasses, we will make one thing cool and particular.”

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