TV queen and primetime network empire-ruler, Shonda Rhimes will be expanding her infamous Shondaland to include theatre!

The mastermind behind such hits as Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal and How to Get Away with Murder is looking to strengthen Los Angeles’ theater community by becoming a “patron of the arts” for IAMA Theatre Company.  The endowment will fund “Rhimes Unsung Voices Playwriting Commission,” which will allow aspiring playwrights the chance to create new plays with the company. Funding will put “special emphasis on cultural inclusion — all with the goal of showcasing fresh, creative, thought-provoking work,” according to a statement from IAMA.Los Angeles may not have the strongest profile as a theater town and Rhimes is looking to change that.

In a phone interview with The L.A. Times, Rhimes mused, “I had been missing the word of theater here in L.A. There’s a couple of very nice large theaters, but there’s not a lot of interesting small theater, like you can find in New York. And I was sort of craving it.”

“I think it’s hard for any playwright to find opportunities,” Rhimes noted. “If people aren’t being included, then I’m going to find a way to make sure they’re included. I’m going to find a way to make sure they have opportunities.”

IAMA, now in its 10th year and based on Los Angeles, was founded by New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts graduates, including Katie Lowes who portrays Quinn Perkins on Scandal. Rhimes became aware of the company and its work after hearing about Scandal cast outings to see IAMA performances. After attending and later becoming a frequent audience member she had a strong urge to make the company grow, approaching Lowes for ideas.

Rhimes experienced the joy of theater throughout out her childhood and wants that for Los Angeles stating, “I went to every play that came around town, from the time I was little. My parents felt like theater was a necessary piece of our culture growing up, it was the way of the world. I never questioned it. It’s always been a part of my life, and it’s never felt inaccessible. And if I can help so that it’s not inaccessible here, great.”

Rhimes has had steady involvement with the company, recently taking part in the workshop of last month’s production set in Echo Park “The House That Jake Built,” which explored immigration.

This is an exciting venture for the art of theatre as well as the city of Los Angeles and we’re excited to see exactly how Rhimes decides to expand it!

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Tonja Renée Stidhum is a screenwriter/director with cheeks you want to pinch… but don’t (unless she wants you to). She is made of sugar and spice and everything rice… with the uncanny ability to make a Disney/Pixar reference in the same sentence as a double entendre.

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