Amy Poehler told The New York Times that she and others are trying to use "the fire of COVID to start some new version" of the UCB Theatre

By Jen Juneau
February 23, 2021 11:16 AM
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Amy Poehler
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Amy Poehler is considering a variety of options for the potential future of her Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre.

The New York City-based comedy club that launched the careers of the likes of Kate McKinnonEllie Kemper and Aziz Ansari closed down its locations seemingly for good back in April — a decision prompted in part by hardships brought on amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Speaking with The New York Times for an interview published on Friday, Poehler (who cofounded the UCB alongside Matt Besser, Ian Roberts and Matt Walsh) said she "[doesn't] know" whether the theater will ever reopen.

"It's been brutal for us," said the Parks and Recreation alum, 49. "We're basically using the fire of COVID to start some new version. We're changing our school and our theater to not-for-profit. Whether or not we'll be able to get there, I don't know."

Back in April, Poehler and her cofounders sent out an email announcing that the Hell's Kitchen Theater and 8th Avenue UCB Training Center would close, writing, "This is devastating to us, but for some time now, even in a normal, robust economy, we have barely been able to pay the high rents in New York City for the Hell's Kitchen Theater and the Training Center."

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Ian Roberts, Matt Besser, Amy Poehler and Matt Walsh
| Credit: Vincent Sandoval/WireImage
Amy Poehler performing at the UCB Theater in 2015
| Credit: Gary Gershoff/WireImage

"Given the indefinite shutdown of all theaters and schools in both Los Angeles and New York City and the anticipated slow and uncertain return to normal when restrictions are lifted, we cannot afford to continue on in our New York City leases," they continued at the time.

The lengthy email went on to explain that while the theater would no longer operate a brick-and-mortar location, it would continue to exist in New York and offer classes to students.

"UCB is not leaving New York City. The school and the theater will continue on in a pared-down form, which will be very similar to how we operated when we first started in N.Y.C. over 20 years ago," the founders said, referencing UCB's beginnings in the '90s when many of its famous alumni first performed there.

UCB moved into the Hell's Kitchen location in 2017 after leaving its original spot in Chelsea but had continued to struggle financially since laying off staff members in 2018 and closing its East Village outpost a year later, the Times reported.

Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in New York City
| Credit: Brad Barket/Getty

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Poehler also told the Times in her recent interview that "our business is dying," from institutions like the UCB to Broadway, which has been shut down since last March amid the pandemic.

"It's a tough time to survive," said the actress and comedian. "That said, this year has been an opportunity to hear from people who felt that they needed more or less of things and to change things. We're making sure we listen to the right people so that we can do that."

Added Poehler, "We've been working with members of a group called Project Rethink, which is made up of performers from UCB, as well as other groups, to basically be like, 'If and when we reopen, what is this going to look like?' "

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