Hi all, this last year has been an enormous challenge for everyone and we’ve been pretty quiet about what’s been going on with us, but we are finally prepared to come out of hibernation, so to speak.
First, if you haven’t seen our Kickstarter update from a few months ago, we lost the planned theater space at 434 McGrath. This was a complete collapse of a three-year undertaking and both emotionally and financially devastating. It was far from a unique situation, especially in the improv world, but it was particularly tough to have everything fall apart right so suddenly right as we were getting started.
However, now that live comedy is possible again, we've taken the first step toward rebuilding:
We have signed a 5-year commercial lease for 593 Somerville Ave in Somerville starting September 1.
It’s a smaller space (audience capacity will be around 40) and won’t have the lobby bar and green room we had hoped for, but it’s a great location between Porter and Union Squares where we can host classes, rehearsals, and shows.
As we move toward opening we'll be revisiting and formalizing our programming plan, but we expect to spend the first few months operating on a fairly basic schedule as we get back on our feet and shake off 18 months of rust. Our initial priority is to provide some opportunities for people to get back up on stage with indie shows and jams, and then we'll start pivoting toward a more cohesive programming structure (i.e. auditions, house teams, etc) in 2022. Keep an eye on our Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook pages for updates.
In other news, the silver lining of not being able to operate in any capacity for so long meant we could step back from the particulars of day-to-day operations and put our energy into reassessing some higher level industry norms. How should improv organizations function? What is the ideal relationship between the business that produces the shows and the community of artists that create them? What should the businesses’ priorities be when managing profits and growth? Many of our answers to these questions and others will become apparent in time, but here is one we are prepared to share:
Union Comedy is restructuring as a cooperative.
This means a variety of things in practice, and we’re still hashing out many of the specifics, but the key elements are:
All employees, performers, and patrons will have the option to purchase or earn ownership shares in the company (membership).
At least 50% of our Board of Directors will be democratically elected by our members.
Among other things, the Board of Directors will vote on the use of annual profits, including the option to issue patronage refunds based on member participation (hours worked, number of performances, tickets purchased, etc).
Membership will be completely optional; you will not have to be a member to take classes, see shows, perform, or work at Union Comedy.
Some aspects of this new organizational structure will be tailored to our specific needs as a company, and some are standard across all cooperatives. For a basic understanding of cooperative principles, check out this page. We believe that the inherent values of this type of structure allow us to better align with the values of improv and, conveniently, our name.
As we work toward becoming a full-fledged co-op we have formed a steering committee made up of three of our Founders to lead the development process and serve as an interim Board of Directors:
Ben Scurria (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Pat Kearnan (email@example.com)
Sara Teague (firstname.lastname@example.org)
This committee will lay the logistical and organizational foundation for the company before we open ourselves up to membership and hold our first Board election, hopefully sometime next year.
In the meantime, as we work to prepare both our new space and our new organizational structure, there are a few different ways you can support us:
Sign up for a in-person Level 1 class starting August 12
Purchase a gift card for a future show or class for yourself or someone else
Donate to our Activation Fund to help us get ready for opening in September
All donations over $20 will receive 2 free tickets to redeem at any future show (donations are not tax deductible)
We're pumped to start doing live comedy again and looking forward to a very bright future! Please contact Pat at email@example.com with any questions or comments.