Ten years ago, a group of New York City theater alumni took a stab at founding their own company — a creative outlet amid the drudgery of their day jobs waiting tables, hoping for a break.
Flash forward a decade, and the IAMA Theatre Company is a well-respected theater in Los Angeles, while its dreaming co-founders have found success on stages and screens alike, most notably in the fabled territory of Shondaland shows. And Shonda Rhimes has kept their dream alive as IAMA’s patron of the arts.
The company is now celebrating its 10th anniversary, which culminated with the world premiere of Cult of Love, the seventh and final entry in Leslye Headland’s Seven Deadly Plays cycle, all of which premiered at IAMA. Fittingly, the seventh sin in the cycle is pride — an attribute co-artistic directors Katie Lowes and Stefanie Black are bursting with in the best possible way as they sit down to reflect on the last decade of IAMA’s achievements.
Nestled between costume racks and wall-sized mirrors in the women’s dressing room at the Atwater Village Theatre in L.A., where IAMA is a company in residence, Lowes and Black enthusiastically recount the early days of the company, when they could put together a show for $2,000 in a space they refer to as a “piece of s— theater” teeming with rats and bugs. “It gave us such purpose,” says Lowes. “Being able to hold down a waiting gig, but also get through a tech week. We loved producing and feeling that purpose amongst our soul-sucking day job.”
“We shared a common language of acting that can’t really be taught,” adds Black. “We all came from the same place, so we’d get up on stage together and it was magic. When people came to see our shows those first couple of years, what they were seeing was our love of acting and our friendships, and that’s irreplaceable.”
In a separate conversation, Headland describes IAMA as a life raft early in her career as a writer. She had known members of the company as a student at NYU and came on board as a writer and director while she was facing her own artistic crossroads. “They helped me survive,” she recalls. “I met them at a time in my life when it was so scary. You’re 26 or 27, you’re just so terrified. You don’t know what you’re going to do with your life, and you’re not sure your dream is going to come true. Once I hooked up with them, it was like being hooked up to an IV. I felt like I was finally being fed in an artistic way.”
Headland also credits