A day after telling the Upright Citizens Brigade community that the New York theater and training center will be shut down and a month after laying off theater staff on both coasts, UCB co-founders Amy Poehler, Matt Besser, Ian Roberts, and Matt Walsh were interviewed by The Hollywood Reporter and offered some insight into the improv institution’s recent decisions. Poehler in particular addressed the controversy surrounding last month’s layoffs and former staffers’ complaints that they were mishandled and poorly communicated, noting that yesterday’s email to the UCB community was an attempt at making things right.
“Look, we heard the community when they said, ‘We’re scared too, and we want better communication.’ What’s most important is people know how much we care about this theater, to keep it alive,” Poehler said. “We can’t control many things, but we can control being transparent. We’ve watched so many different business[es] try to figure out how to navigate this, and we’re trying our best to be human … UCB, at the end of the day, is a human organization made up of people. I think we did make mistakes, and we’re trying to do better.”
Walsh also stressed that the UCB4 “have to do better” when it comes to communication, adding, “Like Amy said, we did make mistakes. But the goal is to keep communication going out as much as we can.” But Poehler explained that, despite the need for transparency, “[the] problem is that there isn’t much happening that we have any control over. We don’t know what the updates are going to be. This letter is the update we have, and we’re hoping for forgiveness.”
Poehler stressed that UCB is “not leaving New York,” and the co-founders are working to make sure the theater continues to offer performance spaces and classes in the future. “It’s so scary for the theater community in general about when things are going to open and how things are going to work when they do,” Besser added. “What we know for sure is that when things do reopen, we want to be a part of it. If there’s a way to open in some small way, we’re going to open in some small way.” Besser also addressed UCBers directly, saying, “To our community, we care about you. We’re listening. We’re doing our best to keep UCB alive and make it even better than before. And thank you for being part of something that means so much to us and hopefully means so much to you.”
Added Walsh: “We’ve lost our venues multiple times. We’re scrappy. So, God willing, we’ll survive this, as well. Hang in there with us as we figure this out, please.”