The Upright Citizens Brigade Theatres have canceled all performances at all venues indefinitely amid concern over the spread of the coronavirus. Performers and employees at the theaters learned of the decision in an email this afternoon, sent shortly after New York governor Andrew Cuomo announced a ban on gatherings of over 500 people and a requirement that smaller venues lower their capacity to at least 50 percent. The decision also has Broadway set to go dark at 5 p.m. tonight.
“This sucks and is sad and is absolutely the right thing to do,” UCB New York artistic director Michael Hartney wrote in an email. “Please take care of yourselves.” Meanwhile, UCB Los Angeles artistic director Christine Bullen sent a similar message to the West Coast performers and employees. “Effective immediately, we are canceling programming at UCBTLA’s Franklin, Sunset, & Inner Sanctum Theatres. We will reopen when it has been deemed safe to do so, hopefully sooner than later.”
In a later email to the UCB community, Hartney clarified that there were no confirmed cases of Coronavirus at the New York theaters, and that the closures were a precautionary measure. He also clarified that the UCB’s training center would close as well.
The mass cancellations come just over one year after UCB was forced to close its East Village venue in the midst of financial woes resulting from “extreme costs.” Months before that closure, the organization also moved its yearly improv festival, the Del Close Marathon, to Los Angeles, citing the “rising costs of doing business in NYC.” There is no word yet on whether that festival, which typically happens near the end of June, would go on as scheduled this year, as a rising number of festivals and events announce cancellations in an attempt to contain the spread of the coronavirus.
The Magnet Theater, also a mainstay of the New York sketch and improv scene, announced on their website they would be closing their theater and training center indefinitely as well. “This means that all Magnet Classes, rentals, shows, and the New York Musical Improv Festival will be postponed,” they wrote. “The Training Center and Theater will be closed effective immediately.” Brooklyn Comedy Collective similarly announced they will be shutting down shows and classes until March 29th. “Hoping that the situation will have improved by then to resume operations,” Artistic Director Philip Markle said in a statement.
Update, March 14 8:00 p.m.: According to a release, the Upright Citizens Brigade has decided to officially postpone this year’s Del Close Marathon until the fall.
Update, March 17 9:00 p.m.: According to an email sent out to Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre New York and Los Angeles staffers on Tuesday night from UCBTNY artistic director Michael Hartney and UCBTLA artistic director Christine Bullen, all UCBT staff, including Hartney and Bullen, will be “temporarily laid off” until the theaters reopen. In the meantime, UCB is working to migrate classes online, while keeping a “small staff” at both coasts’ training centers. We’ve reached out to UCB for comment.
This is a breaking news story and has been updated accordingly.
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