Improv is all about making it up as you go, and Sean Taylor says he’s discovered that’s the key to running a successful business, too.
“Improv is not just a technique for acting or comedy,” the co-owner of Made Up Theatre said. “It’s a technique for overcoming anxiety and introversion, a way for people to communicate more effectively … and the focus of what we do is just collaborating together and creating something out of nothing.
On Saturday, Jan. 21, Made Up Theatre is celebrating 12 years of building an improv community out of nothing in the city of Fremont. Taylor says it’s a big milestone for the theater, not only because it will be the first in-person anniversary celebration in three years, but also considering how many venues were forced to close because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We appreciate the support that everybody’s given us to get us to this 12-year milestone,” Taylor said, “especially after the last three years.”
Made Up Theatre made its debut in 2011 in a garage in an industrial part of the city, the brainchild of Taylor and friends he met through a comedy club in San Jose — Bobby August, Ben Stephens and Dustin Seidler, who no longer lives in the area. The group transformed the garage into a 50-seat theater and performed there until 2018 before relocating to its current location at the Five Corner intersection in the Irvington District in an unmistakable red brick building.
“It’s considered the oldest commercial building in Fremont,” Taylor said.
Everything changed in March 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the global economy, which went from being a temporary measure to lasting more than a year for many businesses. The owners, who are also roommates, decided to put their skills to use and improvise solutions, holding virtual classes and shows.
“Doing it on Zoom was a different challenge,” Taylor said. “But I said let’s not lean into the disadvantages because we’re kind of in the same setting as an online meeting for work. Let’s just lean into the positives and look at this from the point of view of an improviser and, well, what can we do with this space?”
Made Up Theatre had a grand reopening in July 2021, but an upsurge in cases prevented an in-person celebration the next year.
The pandemic has been tough, but Taylor said he is expecting less of a roller coaster going into their 12th year and hoping to keep growing the improv community in the area.
“To see the community we’ve built over the last 10 years has been really impactful,” Taylor said. “Seeing people resonate with what we’ve taught and how it’s changed their lives, it’s been such a fulfilling experience.”
Made Up Theatre is located at 4000 Bay Street in Suite B. To learn more, visit madeuptheatre.com.