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100 Creatives: Philip Lehl

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(Part of our ongoing series profiling 100 Houston-area artists. No rankings; no order. Check back every Tuesday and Thursday for another edition.)

What he does: Lehl, whose acting work has included roles at the Alley Theatre, The Houston Shakespeare Festival, Horse Head Theatre and his own Brave Dog Theatre, thinks of himself as a craftsman that's reached the level of "master." He cites Malcolm Gladwell's book Outliers and the rule that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to be successful at something. "I've kind reached that recently," he says.

The 47 year-old actor started out doing musicals in New York, and he prides himself on being able to handle a wide range of material. Earlier this year he performed at Stages Repertory Theatre in the play Oh, the Humanity by Will Eno, a hot playwright right now, with a distinct voice, and Lehl considered it a new challenge: "It's totally different than what I've done before," he said at the time.

Why he likes it: "I've always liked the seemingly unreachable challenge of being totally concentrated in every moment. It's never happened; probably will never happen. But that challenge, and the times that I've gotten close to it, keep me coming back," says Lehl. He also enjoys the social aspect of theater-making. "I like that I do my work in ever-changing venues, with ever-changing people, and I get exposed to other people. That's not so much the art of it, but it's a huge part of it for me," he says.

His company Brave Dog Theatre has closed its doors, but Lehl (along with his wife Kim Tobin-Lehl) recently founded Stark Naked Theatre Company, which will open its first production in May of this year.

What inspires him: Lehl is inspired by actors that take chances, ones that he himself might not even be ready to take yet. He also has a deep respect for the Bard. "When I get a chance to do Shakespeare, I take it," he says. "I've been utterly and totally defeated by Shakespeare, and I finally feel like I have a handle of how to approach him, and I'm always looking for the next chance."

If not this, what? "I'd be dead. Or playing in some really shitty rock'n'roll band, probably."

If not here, where? "Either in my hometown, Des Moines, Iowa, or New York City."

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