The UCB Theater and training center in Hell's Kitchen closed down back in April after 20+ years, leaving a giant improv-sized hole in NYC's live comedy scene. Vulture notes that a group of former UCB employees and teachers, however, have now launched The Squirrel Comedy Theatre, which 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."

Michael Hartney, who was UCBNY's Artistic Director, cofounded The Squirrel with Lou Gonzalez, Patrick Keene, Maritza Montañez, Corin Wells, and Alex Song-Xia with aim towards inclusivity. From The Squirrel's mission statement, the theatre "values community, representation, transparency, and equality, starting with, but not limited to, financially compensating its artists."

The mission statement goes on to say: "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." You can read the whole mission statement below.

The Squirrel is currently just a virtual space, saying "Our goal is to fundraise enough to open a physical space when we return to some sort of normalcy but for the time being, we exist solely online." They're already offering classes on improv, sketch and character work, and there are streaming free shows on Wednesday and Thursdays at 8 PM ET via their Twitch channel.

Learn more about The Squirrel Theatre at their website.

--

THE SQUIRREL THEATRE MISSION STATEMENT

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.