In 2009, a small group of theater enthusiasts decided Key West was ready for something new. They envisioned a theater "of the people by the people," and so they called it The People's Theater of Key West. The collective became a 501 (c)(3) under the leadership of Connie Hurst, Tammy Shanley, Chris Tittle, and Judy Hadley. The group successfully staged plays, created improv, and grew within the community until they realized a more centralized structure was needed. In 2011, they approached local playwright and philanthropist Monnie King who rebranded the organization: Fringe Theater Key West.
"Expect the Unexpected" became Fringe's motto and plays were staged in churches, museums, art galleries, and more. Original plays like Conch Republic, the Musical , captured Key West history, and educational programs like Shakespeare in Schools kept a focus on the future. In 2016, Monnie and (board president) Peter King decided to retire from Fringe. Janet Bengel stepped forward as the new board president, and she had a plan!
Rebecca Tomlinson was hired as the Managing Artistic Director. PhD in theater and (muffled) years of nonprofit management were a good match for Fringe. Very quickly, Fringe expanded its season, its audience base, and its commitment to developing Key West talent and offering a way "in" to theater. Inclusive theater became a major theme for Fringe, and Fringe's reputation grew as Key West's community-focused theater. And amidst all the development and growth, Fringe found a home at the Armory!
In 2023, our executive committee enjoyed a switcharoo as our board president and board secretary (cue music) traded places! Under the leadership of Jim Argoudelis we produced an exciting season of original plays, classics, and readings along with our outreach and education programs. In 2024, we have even bigger plans! We're partnering with local nonprofits, and we're presenting a lot of award-winning plays. It's gonna be big. And we mean really big! After all, we're coming up on our 15th season!
Fringe 2023-24 Board: Jim Argoudelis (president), Sue Lynch (treasurer), Janet Bengel (secretary), Glenda Donovan, John White with Rebecca Tomlinson (managing artistic director)
Production Team: Don Lynch, Charlie Bengel, Aramis Ikatu, Kendall Cameron, Jim Beyl, Samantha Laskey, and Lauren Thompson