Earlier this year, we shared the announcement that UCB theaters in New York were closing their doors. This was the first of many setbacks that were dealt to the comedy community as a result of COVID. Well now some of the alumni from UCB are reuniting to form a new theater company in NYC.
Today, Vulture broke the news that former UCB artistic director Michael Hartney along with former performers and teachers Lou Gonzalez, Patrick Keene, Maritza Montañez, Corin Wells, and Alex Song-Xia will be forming the nonprofit Squirrel Comedy Theater. “We all came together back in June with similar visions of what a successful, inclusive, financially stable community-first theater could look like,” Wells told Vulture. “And we decided to try to make it happen.”
Check out the theater’s official mission statement, which can be found on their website, below.
The Squirrel Comedy Theatre is a non-profit theater that aims to be New York’s premier destination for sketch and improv comedy, with world-class live shows and classes from a diverse group of the city’s best and brightest performers and writers. Guided by the comedic principle of The Game of the Scene, The Squirrel values community, representation, transparency, and equality, starting with, but not limited to, financially compensating its artists.
Squirrel founders and veteran comedians Lou Gonzalez, Michael Hartney, Patrick Keene, Maritza Montañez, Alex Song-Xia, and Corin Wells saw the new alt-comedy landscape in COVID-era NY as an opportunity to continue creating, performing and teaching comedy inspired by their training, but with a new structural and organizational approach more in line with the wants and needs of the greater comedy community.
Starting with its majority-queer and POC foundership, we want this community to more closely resemble the vibrant melting pot of the city we’re in. By ensuring that there are diverse voices in leadership, on our stages, and in our classrooms from day one, we will attract more diverse audiences and students. The Squirrel will not merely give diversity a seat at the table; it will be the table.
Our classes and stages, virtual and live, are dedicated to growing, nurturing, and uplifting diverse voices historically underrepresented in comedy. To that end, a portion of our fundraising will be earmarked for a fund providing free classes to students from marginalized communities. Our programming will include various open forums focusing on diversity and inclusion, and our faculty will do regular professional training, all in hopes of fostering an environment of acceptance from which we all can create and thrive.
Like everything else this year, they appear to be launching the theater virtually. But we imagine there will be some more in person stuff in the new year. For the meantime, you can sign up for virtual classes on the website starting at $265. Additionally, there are free shows every Wednesday and Thursday at 8 PM ET.
At a time when comedy in New York is all remaining up in the air as the year comes to a close, it is nice to see the initiative that is being taken by those in the industry to do something about it. And most importantly, create some place new that will help remind us just how vital comedy is. Perhaps now more than ever.