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Kim Tobin-Lehl and Philip Lehl in Stark Naked Theatre Company's "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" (Photo by Jeff McMorrough)

Stark Naked Theatre Company Announces 2016-17 Season and New Name

The Houston theatre has changed its name to 4th Wall Theatre Company, and has slated three plays for the upcoming season.

HOUSTON: Stark Naked Theatre Company has changed its name to 4th Wall Theatre Company and announced its 2016-17 season.

The decision to change the company’s name came after more than a year of deliberation. Co-artistic directors Kim Tobin-Lehl and Philip Lehl, who founded the company in 2011, were attached to the name, which references an acting technique where actors are “emotionally naked” onstage. But the name was a turnoff for many audience numbers and potential family foundations and corporate donors. So for their new name, the company decided to adopt a less controversial moniker.

“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,” said Lehl in a statement.

“Because we regularly break the fourth wall, we feel the term is an excellent new name for this theatre that we love,” said Tobin-Lehl in a statement. “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!'”

Despite the name change, the theatre’s mission to bring modern and classic works to Houston has not changed.

The season will open with Sam Shepard’s True West (Sept. 8-30), about two estranged brothers who reconnect. Tobin-Lehl will direct. The cast will include Lehl, Nick Farco, and Drake Simpson. Kevin Rigdon will design the set and lights.

The second play of the season will be Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing (Dec. 1-24). Lehl and Tobin-Lehl will codirect. They will also star in the play, along with Susan Draper.

The final production will be Kenneth Lonergan’s Lobby Hero (May 11-June 3, 2017). The play is set in the lobby of a Manhattan apartment building where the staff are all drawn into a murder investigation. Tobin-Lehl will direct, and the play will feature Drake Simpson.

In addition to the three productions, 4th Wall Theatre will also host a play reading series in February and March 2017. More information will be announced at a later date.

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