Circus Theatricals, a respected stage company on the Los Angeles scene since 1995, has changed its name to the New American Theatre in anticipation of moving into a new space this spring.
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."