When Scandal star Katie Lowes first moved from New York City to Los Angeles nearly nine years ago, her theater degree was not being put to much use in the land of film and television, and she found herself longing for the stage. Then, coincidence — or fate, according to Lowes — led her to AMMO, a restaurant where she worked alongside a handful of performers who shared a similar yearning for the stage.
After many late nights of reminiscing about their theater work, Lowes, Stefanie Black, Christian Durso, Cymbre Walk, Laila Ayad, Dean Chekvala, Leslye Headland, Josh Heine, Laura Holloway, Louise Munson, Amy Rosoff, Brandon Scott, Adam Shapiro, Graham Sibley, Melissa Stephens, Margaux Susi, and Sarah Utterback founded the IAMA Theatre Company.
Now in its eighth year, IAMA has become more than a hobby for everyone involved — it's a way of life. "When we all moved out to L.A., none of us had family here," Lowes told BuzzFeed News. "But these people are my family, for sure. We've been able to do wonderful things that are important and give you a sense of purpose and sense of family. It's the best thing I've done out here. I would be lost without it." In addition to fostering a sense of unity, IAMA has brought world-premiere plays to Los Angeles and created a small theater community thousands of miles from the bright lights of Broadway.
On March 15, IAMA accomplished one of its oldest goals: a 24-hour plays festival. "IAMA has always wanted to do a 24-hour plays festival, but I think we've always been petrified," Lowes said while on a break from intensive rehearsals. "But we have this play opening March 27, and because it's theater, per usual, we never have enough money ever. So we were like, 'What can we do to raise money?' We have so many wonderful friends in Los Angeles who are always looking to get up on stage and throw themselves into some crazy situations. So we came up with the idea a month ago and started emailing all the friends we have and everyone was so game."
To bring the event to life, everyone assembled at Lowes' house around 9 p.m. on March 14 to draw names from a hat. Once the six "teams" were chosen, the writers had 12 hours to write the scripts, which the actors received the morning of the show to rehearse and memorize. And to give themselves an additional challenge, IAMA reduced the traditional 24 hours by one. "We were like, 'Fuck 24 hours, let's do it in 23,'" Lowes said, with a laugh. "It's like, instead of seven-minute abs, it's six-minute abs."
In addition to Lowes and the founders, IAMA's inaugural 23 Hour Plays Fest starred How To Get Away with Murder's Jack Falahee, Liza Weil, and Aja Naomi King; Pretty Little Liars' Troian Bellisario; Suits' Patrick J. Adams; Criminal Minds' Kirsten Vangsness; Cristela's Cristela Alonzo; Grey's Anatomy's Kelly McCreary; Scandal scene-stealer Jason Butler Harner; Sirens' Kevin Daniels; Tim Peper; and Selma's John Lavelle in six new plays written in one night by Jon Caren, Louise Munson, Janine Nabers, Christian Durso, Zahir McGhee, Matt Zucker, and Elisabeth R. Finch, and then performed at the Greenway Court Theatre.
BuzzFeed had exclusive access to the rehearsal process, which began at 9 a.m. on March 15, and commenced after an enthusiastic opening speech from Lowes that ended with, "Let's make art, people!"
What If He Is?
The Hottie Shuffle
Someone Like Who?
Lady of the Lake
Bag of Steve
It was a day of intense rehearsals, endless memorization, and unflappable nerves.
"Today's been so awesome," Lowes said. "For me, it's always important to make sure that the theater is what I always go back to. That's what my roots are. That's where I find so much strength. It makes me so excited to make stuff with my friends and I've heard numerous times, 'Let's do this every weekend!'"