City Cast

How This Houston Couple Opened Their Own Theatre

Brooke Lewis
Posted on October 20
A side profile of Philip Lehl wearing a green shirt.

Philip Lehl and his wife Kim Tobin-Lehl started 4th Wall Theatre Company in 2011. (Photo by Jeff McMorrough)

Philip Lehl, who graduated from Julliard School of Drama, has been a mainstay in Houston’s theater scene for more than two decades. He’s also starred in Broadway plays and worked as a professional actor. Lehl and his wife opened 4th Wall Theatre Company in 2011, where they strive to pay their artists fairly and work to produce high quality shows.

What made you and your wife want to start a theater company?

“I was working at another theater in Houston and I was really unhappy. I had been working there for ten years. My wife, who had some experience producing plays, [she said,] ‘You know what? We should just put on a play.’ We just started with one and it was such a good experience that we decided to keep doing it. This is our 13th season. I never ever would have predicted that.”

How did you get drawn into the theater business?

“I knew in fourth grade that I wanted to be an actor. There was a sixth grade teacher at my elementary school who put on Shakespeare plays with her kids. She put on a production of ‘The Taming of the Shrew’ and there was a kid in that, he was playing Petruchio. There’s a scene where he’s supposed to be dressed really funnily for this wedding. In this production, he came in dressed only in long johns. We went crazy. I was like I want to do that.”

What was it like to perform alongside Carole King?

“It was a play called ‘Blood Brothers,’ a musical on Broadway in the 90s. I was in the chorus and I was an understudy. Then, cut to about a year into the run of that play, the person I was understudying was leaving the show. They were also bringing in Carole King, the great singer and songwriter to play that character’s mother. The show’s producers were extremely loyal to me and they promoted me into the leading role. For six months, I got to do a show eight times a week with Carole King. She’s one of the nicest people I’ve ever met. She was excellent in the show. I don’t think she ever missed a performance.“

Do you know an interesting Houstonian I should feature next? Let me know.

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