Upright Citizens Brigade sells Sunset site: ‘This theater was a home for so many’
The Upright Citizens Brigade delivered what it called “sad news” to the Los Angeles comedy scene this week.
On Wednesday afternoon, founders of the sketch and improv troupe collectively known as the UCB 4 — Amy Poehler, Matt Besser, Ian Roberts and Matt Walsh — announced the closure of one of its L.A. theaters because of financial hardship amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The UCB was “forced to sell” its Sunset Boulevard location, the group said, while keeping its site on Franklin Avenue.
“We have been unable to make mortgage payments during this extended shutdown,” the UCB posted Wednesday on Twitter. “We know this theater was a home for so many, and so many people were responsible for helping it grow.
“We want to thank all of those people and the New York community who were also significantly impacted by recent closures. We are still working to maintain our Franklin space and look forward to being legally allowed to gather again.”
The Sunset sale comes several months after the UCB shuttered its two permanent spaces in New York during the early days of the public health emergency. The comedy organization has navigated COVID-19 lockdowns thus far by hosting online classes while its physical locations have gone dark due to safety concerns.
Earlier this year, the UCB drew sharp criticism from the comedy community by laying off dozens of employees via mass email at the outset of the pandemic.
After years of mistrust, Upright Citizens Brigade Theater owners Matt Walsh, Matt Besser, Ian Roberts and Amy Poehler came in for harsh criticism.
The UCB 4 also offered an update Wednesday on their recent diversity, equity and inclusion efforts prompted by this summer’s uprising against systemic racism in response to the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and others. In September, the comedy troupe announced it was working with Project Rethink — a campaign helmed by BIPOC, LGBTQ+ and disability community leaders that pledges to uproot institutional injustice.
“In the new year, we will conclude our search for a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion consultant to work with us and Project Rethink as we move forward,” Wednesday’s statement continued. “We want to be as transparent as possible and continue to make updates on our website as soon as ready.
“As always, we are extremely appreciative of your support of UCB. We are incredibly grateful for Project Rethink and their willingness to work with us on creating a new version of UCB that will be better and stronger than before.”
Interviews with more than a dozen BIPOC performers and staff at the Groundlings and UCB reveal systemic problems within L.A.'s sketch and improv world.
Also finding new ways to operate amid the COVID-19 crisis is UCB’s rival ensemble, the Groundlings, which is currently hosting its annual holiday sketch and improv show virtually via Vimeo on Demand.
Available to rent at $10 through Jan. 1, the digital comedy extravaganza features the talents of Leonard Robinson (“Insecure”), Lauren Burns (“This Is Us”), Michael Churven (“Modern Family”), Samantha DeSurra (“Yeoja”), Chris Eckert (“Empty Space”), Patty Guggenheim (“Florida Girls”), Kiel Kennedy (“Robot Chicken”) and Ariane Price (“Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar”).
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