The People's Theater 2009-11
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.
In 2011, the fledgling organization had grown enough that it needed more centralized management and a strong fundraiser. The group knew just the person and approached Monnie King. A playwright, director, and actor, Monnie King was uniquely qualified to take the People's Theater into its next incarnation. She reorganized the group and adopted a new name: Fringe Theater Key West.
The group produced The Night of January 16 in the Parish Hall at St Paul's Episcopal Church, as well as formed an improvisation troupe (called Mission Improvable) that performed regularly at the Bottlecap Lounge. They held workshops, readings, and staged two more productions (At Last Light and Apocalyptic Butterflies).
Fringe Theater 2011-2016
As the organization’s Producing Artistic Director, Monnie spent countless hours creating a theater company that specialized in immersion theater. As the President of the Board, her husband Peter King worked to ensure Fringe’s financial future. Leading a dedicated group of volunteers, patrons, and audience members, Monnie and Peter helped Fringe to become an integral part of Key West’s theater community.
With the motto “Expect the un-Expected,” Fringe created theater in historic venues including the Old Firehouse Museum, the Custom House, the Gardens Hotel, Mel Fisher Museum Garret, and St Paul’s Episcopal Church.
Classic plays like Edward Albee’s A Delicate Balance, Tennessee Williams’ Suddenly Last Summer, Noel Coward’s Private Lives, Arthur Miller’s The Price, and David Mamet’s Boston Marriage were produced.
But it was Monnie's passion for original scripts that really set Fringe apart by capturing Key West's history in plays like Key West Characters and Conch Republic, the musical. She was also instrumental in getting funds for Fringe's Shakespeare in Schools education program
Rebecca Tomlinson, who has a PhD in Theater & Communications from the University of Florida, moved to Key West in 2002 to work with PACKW to "save" the Tennessee Williams Theater from closure. Since that time, she has served as change agent and marketing guru to several organizations, all while earning a reputation as a visionary and insightful stage director.
In April of 2016, the Kings announced their decision to retire. Janet Bengel was elected as President, and the board invited Rebecca Tomlinson to become Fringe Theater’s Artistic Managing Director.
“We’re building on the amazing legacy Monnie and Peter have left us,” shared Janet Bengel. “Thanks to them, our future is bright!”
(Right) Monnie and Peter King with Judy Hadley, Tammy Shanley, and Janet Bengel. They were honored at Fringe's annual gala, May 2016.
Rebecca and Janet Bengel shared a vision for Fringe's next stage. Fringe added more main stage productions (including summer shows), created a new play reading outreach program for adults (Plays Out Loud), a new education program for Monroe County students (Field Trip to Fringe), and continued Fringe's popular Playwrights in Paradise (with a public reading of final scripts) and the Shakespeare in Schools programs.
Fringe produced plays in the Parish Hall at St Paul's, the Side Bar at Aqua Night Club, the Little Room Jazz Club, and The Studios of Key West. Classics, original scripts, musicals, comedies, and dramas created a well-rounded season with sell-out short runs.
What's next for Fringe? It's an unfolding story, and we hope that you'll be a part of it.
To reach Fringe, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Fringe's Rebecca Tomlinson and Janet Bengel