COVID-19 THEATER SERIES: A Nomad's Journey - An Interview with IAMA's Stefanie Black


Elaine L. Mura - LA Splash

Elaine L. Mura - LA Splash

Registered Critic, Writer



The co-artistic director of IAMA Theatre Company, film, television, and stage actor Stefanie Black has done it all. Twelve years ago, she co-founded the IAMA Theatre Company, an Ovation award-winning Los Angeles-based ensemble of artists committed to invigorating live performance for a streaming generation. Through cutting-edge, cool, and hyper-modern stories, IAMA is invested in the immediacy of production and strives to bring audiences out of their personal space and into a shared experience. IAMA has produced over 15 premiere plays, including Found, Canyon, The Recommendation, A Kid like Jake, and Cult of Love. Pamdemic or not, Stefanie has determined to stay busy doing what she loves. She kindly agreed to being interviewed in April, 2020.


Stefanie Black, Brandon Scott, Adam Shapiro, and Christine Woods in "Canyon" - Photo by Dean Cechvala

When and how did IAMA Theatre Company first form? Were you involved from the beginning? 

Stefanie Black:  IAMA was founded in the summer of 2007 by a group of us who had all just moved to Los Angeles from NYC. We'd all graduated from NYU a couple years before and found ourselves together in LA looking to create theater and stay true to our roots. Katie Lowes, my co-Artistic Director, and I were part of the original eight members.”

What are some of the most popular plays you've done? How about awards?

 

SB: IAMA is probably best known for producing the world premieres of all seven of Leslye Headland's The Seven Deadly Plays. Bachelorette and Assistance were some of our most popular and successful plays. We concluded the series in 2018 with our production of Cult of Love which will have its co-world premiere this summer at The Williamstown Theater Festival. In 2013, we won the Ovation Award for best production intimate theater for our production of Jonathan Caren's The Recommendation. We also garnered an Ovation Nomination in 2019 for best season. In 2019 we co-hosted the 5th Annual Stage Raw Awards with Ammunition Theatre Company.

 

Ryan Garcia, Sheila Carrasco, and Desi Dennis-Dylan in "Found" - Photo by Jeff Lorch

When did you close the theater due to COVID-19? Were you in the middle of a run?

SB: We closed our west coast premiere of the new musical Found on March 13. We had two more weeks of performances before we were to close on March 23. We also had our production of Canyon cancelled, which was to be remounted by the Center Theatre Group at the Kirk Douglas as part of Block Party. That was scheduled to open on April 10.”

Tom De Trinis, Jordan Kai Burnett, Mike Millan, and Jonah Platt in "Found" - Photo by Jeff Lorch

How has COVID-19 impacted on your theater?

SB: Honestly, for us, we are very lucky to be a nomadic company moving between a few theater venues each season. Our lack of home has actually kept us a little more financially stable than some of our colleagues. What we do need right now is to keep a direct line to our audience and community. We need to spend this time to plan for the future and the new normal that we are about to enter. The downside has been that we didn't get to finish what was a very successful run, and it has us looking at downsizing production for next season.

Laila Ayad, Melissa Stephens, and Tina Huang in "Cult of Love" - Photo by Dean Cechvala

Are you doing anything right now to keep your live theater going? Streaming? Having virtual meetings? Planning for your next show when you reopen?

SB:  IAMA is keeping busy by meeting regularly via Zoom and launching our #IAMAatHome, which will see us rolling out a variety of content. We're making theater without a theater. We are also in planning mode for our first show of next season, as well as a potential workshop this summer - if we are able to gather by then.”

What do you think the impact of COVID-19 will be on live theater in general in Los Angeles? Do you foresee any permanent changes?

SB:  I think it's hard to say what the permanent impact will be on LA Theater. I do believe that we are setting new precedents of how theater can live virtually in the cyber world and what that means for all artists. I am hopeful that LA intimate theater will be the first to come back since our numbers for gathering are smaller. Hopefully, that will be encouraging for audiences and help to bring us all back to the theater together.

What do you need right now to keep going forward? What would you like from the theater public?

SB: IAMA isn't going anywhere and we just want our audience to stay with us, stay safe, and stay engaged. We'll be back!!!  #LATheatreLives

What are some of your future plans?

SB: IAMA is always looking towards the future. We are very excited about our 2020/2021 season, the Jubilee Season, dedicated to celebrating female-identifying playwrights. We are excited about continuing our writers’ labs and finding ways to share their work with the public. Most importantly, our plans include being around for another 12 seasons and then some.


This article first appeared in LA Splash Worldwide.


Elaine L. Mura - LA Splash
Born and raised in New Jersey, Elaine Mura moved to New York City as an adult, where she completed her doctorate in psychology and worked in one of New York’s many State hospitals. Subsequently, she decided to scratch a persistent itch to travel and spent ten years living and working in Denmark, Germany, Portugal, and Iran – with shorter stops in the many scenic spots in between. She aplied her skills all over the world doing research, clinical practice, and academic pursuits. Since relocating to Los Angeles, she taught students in the graduate program at Pepperdine University for many years and spent the last 20 years as a forensic psychologist with the California State prison system. But the writing bug forever lay just beneath the surface, and she is currently writing magazine articles and theater reviews while working on a play, a novel, and a book of short stories.