The name change was no small matter for founder and artistic director Jack Stehlin, whose turn in the title role of the troupe's 2010 staging of Davey Holmes' "More Lies About Jerzy" has earned him a lead actor nomination in the L.A. Weekly Theater Awards (ceremony on April 4). When he launched Circus Theatricals in New York City in 1983, he named it in tribute to three generations of his forebears who performed with the Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey Circus.
The name endured until now despite its drawbacks. "The one question that keeps coming back is, 'Oh really? So you do acrobatics?'" said managing director Jeannine Wisnosky Stehlin, who has run the company with her husband since he moved to L.A. in 1995.
The Stehlins say it was important to change to something more self-explanatory because of their new goal of forging partnerships with like-minded theaters in New York and elsewhere to transfer productions from city to city. The ancestors honored by "Circus Theatricals" would understand, Jack Stehlin said: "They were gypsy survivors and people who wanted the biggest audience they could get."
The 42-seat space, also called the New American Theatre, is in the Hayworth Building, built in 1926, at 2501 Wilshire Blvd. Elsewhere in the building is the Hayworth Theatre, where Circus Theatricals also has performed and offered classes. Last summer, Stehlin starred at the Kirk Douglas Theatre in a rental run of "Titus Redux," an adaptation of Shakespeare's "Titus Andronicus" co-produced by Circus Theatricals and Not Man Apart Physical Theatre Ensemble.
The company will be a gypsy for one more show — its revival of Robert Anderson's 1968 drama, "I Never Sang for My Father," opening March 26 at the McCadden Theatre in Hollywood. It will inaugurate its new stage with the spring or summer opening of William Hoffman's "As Is," a 1985 Obie Award winner and Tony nominee that was among the first dramas about the AIDS crisis. The fall production is "Bedfellows," a new drama by Los Angeles playwright Chuck Rose, about a rising politician who gets bitten by his past.