Larrance Fingerhut and Jen Shepard. Credit: Courtesy of Jen Shepard

Seventeen years after it was founded in an intimate 50-seat theater in downtown Bar Harbor, the owners of improv comedy theater Improv Acadia announced Monday that its last summer season — which was in 2019, before the pandemic — was its last.

Jen Shepard and Larrance Fingerhut said on Facebook and on the Improv Acadia website that due to ongoing pandemic restrictions, even if full capacity seating can return sometime this summer, the numbers simply do not work to allow them to reopen.

“The pandemic is not over, and we can’t open for our 18th season,” Shepard said in the Facebook post. “The small size of our theater and necessary distancing for at least the first part of the 2021 season prevents us from opening for the second year of the pandemic.”

Shepard and Fingerhut plan to continue doing improv in eastern Maine thanks to an ongoing collaboration with the Penobscot Theatre Co. in Bangor, where Shepard is executive director. The pair will present comedy shows year-round in Bangor, and eventually hope to create an improv training center and a cabaret space.

Like nearly every other theater and comedy space in the state, Improv Acadia had to completely close last year when the pandemic struck. They were not able to have a 2020 season, and even if they were able to open for part of this year, two years of lost revenue was a blow too hard to recover from.

Fingerhut, an accomplished musical accompanist for most Improv Acadia shows, as well as a musical director for a number of Penobscot Theatre productions, said last year that trying to replicate what Improv Acadia does for the Zoom era was just not possible.

“Comedy is such an intimate thing. Part of the way it works is that people are elbow to elbow, and the laughter just sets the room off,” Fingerhut said. “It’s really hard to replicate that sort of thing via Zoom. It’s hard to make it infectious. Infectious, in the good way, that is.”

An Improv Acadia season typically started in mid-May and lasted through October, with shows every night of the week but Monday, and two shows a night in July and August. Each year, Improv Acadia welcomed improv performers from all over the country, including from both Fingerhut and Shepard’s comedy alma maters, The Second City and Improv Olympics, both in Chicago.

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Emily Burnham

Emily Burnham is a Maine native and proud Bangorian, covering business, the arts, restaurants and the culture and history of the Bangor region.