Actress/Artistic Director Kim Tobin on Emotional Honesty in Stark Naked Theatre Company

No each show isn't done in the nude.

Kim Tobin and her husband and co-founder and co-artistic director Philip Lehl wanted to emphasize their belief that the best acting is open and honest. That's why they named their company Stark Naked Theatre Company - it's supposed to show emotional forthrightness, not a full Monty.

"If you really do want to be an actor who can satisfy himself and his audience, you need to be vulnerable. You must reach the emotional and intellectual level of ability where you can go out stark naked, emotionally, in front of an audience. " - Jack Lemmon

Of course, adding to the confusion, is that their first show is entitled Body Awareness, by two-time Obie winning playwright Annie Baker.

In Body Awareness, a lesbian couple who are raising a son who may or may not have Asberger's Syndrome, see their home life upended with the arrival of a guest photographer during a special college seminar week.

Playwright Baker (Circle Mirror Transformation, The Aliens) lays out her one-act comedy in 90 minutes. Tobin says there are already some problems in the family that are only exacerbated when Frank the photographer arrives with his pictures.

"This play challenges that part of us that feels the need to always have clear concrete solutions to all our problems," Tobin says. "It asks us sometimes to accept things the way things are and that logic isn't always right."

Tobin, who grew up in Houston and went to the University of Houston, returned here a few years ago after several years in the New York City theater scene where she acted and taught.

Eventually, she and Lehl, who she met here, married and decided to form a theater company called Barking Dog with another couple and they performed at Stages and other theaters around town. That collaboration broke up and Stark Naked was their next enterprise.

Named in the Houston Press Houston Theater Awards as "Best New Addition to the Houston Theater Scene," Stark Naked starts its second season with Body Awareness followed by Beyond Therapy by Christopher Durang and Shakepeare's Macbeth.

At the same time, Tobin wanted to continue in her acting classes, but couldn't find any here that operated on the same basis as the studies she had undertaken with heavy doses of the approaches of Sanford Meisner and Stella Adler.

So she decided to start her own classes, although it took her two years to find a place she could afford. That turned out to be Spring Street Studios and she has nothing but praise for owner Jon Deal, who also operates Winter Street Studios, calling him "a champion for artists." Deal turned both locations into artists lofts and keeps the prices at an affordable level, she says.

Of special note: Stark Naked is opening its doors an hour before curtain so that theater-goers can look at a special collection of artwork that Tobin has curated in connection with this play.

Body Awareness runs October 25-November 10 at Spring Street Studios, Studio 101, 1824 Spring Street, 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays, 7:30 p.m. November 5. $10-$20. For information call 832-866-6514 or visit the theater's website

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