The Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre has carved out a big place in the Los Angeles comedy scene, with a popular comedy training program and performers who regularly turn up in TV and film. Now they're expanding that influence with a new theater and training center on Sunset Boulevard, while continuing to put on shows at their old Franklin Avenue location.
The new 85-seat theater (smaller than UCB Franklin's 120-seat theater) has been having semi-secret shows the last couple of weeks as they ramp up to a full schedule starting Monday, Nov. 3. The grand opening on Saturday, Nov. 1 includes an invite-only party and three shows with limited public seats set to be distributed on Twitter. Those shows include Amy Poehler joining her UCB brethren for two of the theater's signature "Asssscat" shows.
The new 30,000-square-foot facility has faced some delays — UCB co-founder Matt Walsh told Splitsider in a March interview that the new venue would be open come June — but now the new venue looks ready to start delivering on that promise.
"We want a place where comedians feel like they have a home," UCB co-founder Matt Besser told L.A. Weekly.
The previous location on Franklin ceded the chance for students to hang out before or after a show to nearby businesses, but the new venue has a cafe/hangout space which could help UCB Sunset serve as a centering institution for its patrons, students and fans.
UCB has long used other theater space around town to hold their classes due to the limited availability of their main building, but the new theater brings with it UCB's own classrooms — 14 of them, according to a UCB press release, with three of those devoted exclusively to sketch comedy writing as opposed to UCB's improv bread-and-butter. The school offered 550 classes in 2013, which they say they expect to increase significantly with the new training center. Classes haven't started in the new space yet, but are set to start there soon.
The new facilities also include video productive offices, a full reception area, conference room and administrative offices, according to a press release. Walsh also noted in a previous interview that the space could be used for podcast tapings.
UCB faced some controversy when they opened a second venue in New York City, with the theater trying to expand more into holding stand-up comedy shows and running into a different ethos than the improv comedy world UCB's founders came from. However, the new L.A. venue's schedule looks to be similar to what already existed at UCB Franklin, with some existing shows moving over while both theaters are trying out some newer programming.
There's always the possibility that expansion could dilute a brand, but given the regularly sold out shows at the theater, the new theater could help relieve some of the demand for shows that is often left unfulfilled. Sunset may not be the last addition to the UCB Theatre brand — Walsh has noted in previous interviews the possibility of expanding to a brand new city and possibly even overseas.
Want to learn more about the subculture of improv? Watch this video from Subculture Club:
Full disclosure: This piece's author has taken classes with the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre and performed at the theater.