Stark Naked Theatre Company Becomes 4th Wall Theatre Company

Stark Naked Theatre Company Becomes 4th Wall Theatre CompanyAfter more than a year of heartfelt deliberation among board and staff, Houston's Stark Naked Theatre Company has changed its name to 4th Wall Theatre Company.

Co-Artistic Directors Kim Tobin-Lehl & Philip Lehl have a deep attachment to the name Stark Naked, which represents an aesthetic of acting and approach to craft, as well as a commitment to being wholly honest and "emotionally naked" on stage and off. However, time has revealed a problematic, literal interpretation of the phrase "stark naked" which has created a reluctance among potential new audience members as well as potential family foundations and corporate donors.

Stark Naked Theatre Company Becomes 4th Wall Theatre Company
Kim Tobin-Lehl and Philip Lehl, pictured above,
worked for more than a year with their staff and
board on the name change.
Photo by Gabriella Nissen

"This has been a very painful and difficult decision for us," says Lehl. "We love the name Stark Naked and realize that a large part of our audience and donor base are attached to the name as well. Although there is a level of sadness about changing our inaugural name, Kim and I also believe that the name 4th Wall Theatre Company perfectly represents the intimate and extraordinary theatre experience we strive to bring to Houston audiences."

Webster's defines 4th wall as: "an imaginary wall that keeps performers from recognizing or directly addressing their audience." Tobin notes that, "because we regularly break the 4th wall, we feel the term is an excellent new name for this theatre that we love. Although '4th Wall' will be an unfamiliar term to some people, explaining it is much more appealing to us than telling people, 'yes, the actors will be wearing clothes!'"

Although the name has changed, 4th Wall Theatre Company's commitment to bringing Houston audiences the best modern and classical theatre remains firmly intact. The exciting lineup of plays selected for 4th Wall's upcoming sixth season include a Houston premiere, a modern classic, and a Shakespeare favorite.

The 2016-2017 season opens on September 9th with Sam Shepard's Tony-nominated masterpiece, TRUE WEST-a modern American classic exploring themes of sibling rivalry, art as commerce, and what it means to 'be a man.' Like a runaway train, this dark comedy takes audiences on a thrill ride into the dark side of the human psyche, with laughs and unexpected moments of revelation along the way.

Stark Naked Theatre Company Becomes 4th Wall Theatre Company
4th Wall (formerly Stark Naked) Theatre Co.
has scheduled Sam Shepard's dark comedy
TRUE WEST for its 2016-2017 season. Above,
Philip Seymour Hoffman and John C. Reilly
perform in the Circle in the Square production
of TRUE WEST. Photo by Joan Marcus

A finalist for the 1983 Pulitzer Price in Drama, TRUE WEST was famously revived by Steppenwolf Theatre in both Chicago and New York starring John Malkovich and Gary Sinise, and more recently by Circle in the Square, with Philip Seymour Hoffman and John C. Reilly alternating roles. During Steppenwolf's revival, Malkovich shared this insight about the play: "People kept saying TRUE WEST is so commercial, but I think it's a more personal play than most of his. Shepard, like Lee [the drifter brother], defies all the things we're told we have to do to be successful...Lee is the side of Shepard that's always being strangled but never quite killed."

Directed by Kim Tobin-Lehl, 4th Wall Theatre's production of TRUE WEST features a strong ensemble cast comprised of Philip Lehl, Nick Farco, and Drake Simpson, with the incomparable Kevin Rigdon (the set and light designer for the renowned Steppenwolf revival) in charge of set and light design. Critical praise for TRUE WEST abounds. As noted by the San Francisco Chronicle in its world premiere, the play is "clear, funny, naturalistic. It's also opaque, terrifying, surrealistic. If that sounds contradictory, you're on to one aspect of Shepard's winning genius; the ability to make you think your watching one thing while at the same time he's presenting another." With the genius of Shepard in the experienced hands of 4th Wall Theatre Company, it's certain that Houston audiences are in for an exhilarating ride.

Stark Naked Theatre Company Becomes 4th Wall Theatre Company
For its second play of the 2016-2017 season, 4th Wall Theatre stages
Shakespeare's romantic comedy MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING. Pictured
above, left to right, is Keanu Reeves, Denzel Washington, Emma Thompson,
Kenneth Branagh, Kate Beckinsale, and Robert Sean Leonard in a
promotional still for Kenneth Branagh's 1993 film version of MUCH ADO.

For its second play of the 2016-2017 season, 4th Wall Theatre brings love and laughter to Houston audiences with Shakespeare's beloved romantic comedy, MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING. The play reunites Houston's favorite acting couple-Philip Lehl and Kim Tobin-Lehl (last seen in 4th Wall's critically acclaimed and electrifying production of WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF) as MUCH ADO's Benedick and Beatrice, long-standing friends and verbal sparring partners, who are viewed as the epitome of true love by everyone in town except themselves. Determined to convince the pair to admit their true feelings for one another, young lovers Hero and Claudio hatch a misguided plot to trick Benedick and Beatrice into confessing their love. Widely considered to be one of Shakespeare's best comedies, MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING is a delightfully hilarious and witty tale of love, friendship and intrigue. Appropriate for all ages, this not-to-be-missed holiday treat opens on December 1st and runs through Christmas Eve.

4th Wall Theatre's final production of the season is the Houston premiere of LOBBY HERO, written by award-winning playwright, and Academy Award-nominated screenwriter, Kenneth Lonergan. LOBBY HERO's successful New York run was universally praised by critics, including New York Magazine, which exclaimed that "soon after making the year's best movie, YOU CAN COUNT ON ME, Kenneth Lonergan delights us with his irrepressible LOBBY HERO, confirming him as a comic wizard." Time Out New York declared the play "a masterpiece. The best drama, the best comedy and the best romance of the year, all rolled into one."

Stark Naked Theatre Company Becomes 4th Wall Theatre Company
4th Wall Theatre's final production of the
season is the Houston premiere of
Kenneth Lonergan's 'dramedy' LOBBY HERO.
Pictured above: is Glenn Fitzgerald and
Heather Burns in LOBBY HERO.
Photo by Joan Marcus. Courtesy of PMK.

Lonergan's mesmerizing 'dramedy', was nominated for a Drama Desk Award, Olivier Award, and Outer Critics Circle Award for best play. As the story unfolds and the tensions rise in the lobby of a Manhattan apartment building, we learn how Jeff-a hapless young security guard, his supervisor, an overbearing police officer and his young female partner are all drawn into a murder investigation. As Jeff's tightly wound supervisor is called to bear witness against his troubled brother, and the attractive rookie cop finds she must stand up to her seasoned partner, loyalties are strained to the breaking point. Truth becomes elusive and justice proves costly.

4th Wall Theatre's production of LOBBY HERO opens on May 12th, 2017. Houston theatre go-ers will not want to miss this play directed by Kim Tobin-Lehl, and featuring Drake Simpson as Bill, the overbearing police officer. As the Spectator noted: "you can tell [LOBBY HERO is] good because, within about five minutes, any sense you have of being a member of the audience, sitting down and watching a group of actors perform on stage, has vanished.... In what amounts to an out-of-body experience, you're totally absorbed in what's going on...Lonergan is particularly good, both here and in THIS IS OUR YOUTH, at showing how good intentions can be undermined by unconscious desires."

In addition to the three full-scale productions, 4th Wall Theatre is also planning a Play Reading Series to be held over a 3-4 week period during February and March. The Reading Series will give audiences the opportunity to experience new and innovative plays not yet seen on the Houston stage.


Stark Naked Theatre Company Becomes 4th Wall Theatre CompanyFor the latest information about 4th Wall Theatre Company's upcoming season, to purchase tickets, and to receive exclusive ticket offers and advance notice of special events, visit 4thwalltheatreco.com.

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