MasterMinds 2013 Revisited: Philip Lehl and Stark Naked Theatre Company

There were lots of high points in 2013 for Stark Naked Theatre Company, Philip Lehl, co-artistic director with Kim Tobin, tells us. Pressed to pick just one, Lehl says, "I'd have to say the scene in Macbeth where Lady Macbeth and Macbeth are plotting the murder of Duncan just because it was the two of us, [Kim and I] in an iconic moment. There we were, getting to do Macbeth because we worked really hard to build this theater company."

Lehl, who along with his wife, Tobin, founded Stark Naked in 2011, says winning a 2013 MasterMind award was a turning point in the company's financial health and stability. "I think the MasterMind really, really helped us in that it was the first occurrence of an entity showing support for us with a large check. Now we can point to that and say, 'The Houston Press thinks we're MasterMinds...do you want to support us, too?' We're poised to begin approaching major donors, both private donors and corporations. And the fact that our fund-raising is on track means that Kim and I can think about making good art instead of stressing about funding."

Ticket sales pay for less than half of the price of a production making fund-raising crucial for a non-profit organization like Stark Naked. "Audiences [are] seeing a lot more on stage than what they're paying for. It's not a bad thing, actually. That gives us artistic independence. If we're not dependent on ticket sales, we don't have to do a show just because it's popular. But it also means we rely on fund-raising for almost two thirds of our budget."

The company's increased financial stability has translated into more productions for Stark Naked, including a new reading series launched with a Halloween reading of The War of the Worlds. "This season we're doing four shows, two of them are in repertory but it's still an extra title. Next season we're adding a holiday show. And we've been able to better fulfill our mission of paying artists. We've been able to up our salaries for everybody who works for us."

Another part of Stark Naked's mission is to affect the quality of acting in Houston, both through its performances and through classes at the Kim Tobin Acting Studio. "We want to improve the aesthetic of acting. The [studio] is where we teach people how to do that. It also broadens the pool of actors that we have to pull from," says Lehl.

An awards ceremony for this year's winners of the MasterMind 2014 awards is scheduled for 9 p.m. at the Houston Press Artopia 2014 party, which will run 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. on January 25 at Winter Street Studios, 2101 Winter Street. Entertainment includes live performances from Deep Cuts, Featherface, Electric Attitude, Ceeplus Bad Knives and DJ Dave Wrangler, plus fashion shows featuring Neal Hamil Models, dance performances by FrenetiCore and jhon stronks and works from more than 25 local artists. Tickets are $55 general admission and $85 VIP admission. Ticket prices include complimentary food, wine, cocktail from Captain Morgan White Rum and Stella Artois. This event is 21+ only. Check our Voice Daily Deal for discounts on tickets.

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