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Key West Theater Evolves as Island Cultural Hub

By Laura Myers

KEY WEST, Florida Keys - Key West Theater, undergoing a dramatic transformation as a cultural hub for the island city’s arts and music community, has put Key West on the radar of top musicians, comedians, artists and entertainers.

The nonprofit Key West Theater is a partner with Rams Head Promotions, a booking agency luring notable “nostalgia act” musicians and other popular artists to Key West. Rams Head donates $1 per ticket to the theater.

Key West Theater Executive Director Kelly Norman’s duties include overseeing production of Key West Theater shows at various venues.

“To get to Key West for these artists, there’s one road in and one road out. In the past, it was really hard to convince groups or artists to play here. But now, in its fourth year, Key West Theater has proven itself as a trusted venue,” Norman said.

“Ram’s Head has been vital to putting us on the map. It’s full steam ahead and now we’re trying to reach out to visitors,” she said.

The theater continues to lure big names -Travis Tritt, Bret Michaels, Air Supply, Jefferson Starship, Craig Robinson & The Nasty Delicious, Gary Puckett, Rick Springfield, Michael McDonald and Arlo Guthrie, just to name a few - to Key West.

The Beach Boys are scheduled to play April 4 at the 24 North Sunset Green outdoor lawn venue.

Bands, typically traveling to the Keys in a bus with a troupe of at least 10, enjoy exploring the island, going to the Green Parrot Bar and the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum.

“They’re not afraid to be seen scooting around and they like to ride bikes,” Norman said.

Many of the theater’s artists, once wildly popular in the 1970s and ‘80s, today have audiences of people age 55 and older.

The theater’s Sunday Ramble Concert Series and “tribute” shows such as “Rumours: A Fleetwood Mac Tribute,” scheduled Feb. 11, are especially popular.

“In the future, we want to explore attracting more diverse groups, more up-and-coming artists,” Norman said.

Norman plans to establish a scholarship program for local musicians with studio recording time. Albums typically can range from about $20,000 to $30,000 to produce.

The theater, evolving from seasonal to year-round performances, currently has about 130 members, with 85 percent of members located outside of Key West.

Norman has developed new packages to grow the theater’s membership base.

Membership packages, created and launched in late 2018, are priced from a $50 “I’m a Local” to a $5,000 “Seeing Stars” package. Offerings include drink cards for complimentary beverages and tickets, presale notification to theater-produced shows, ride service discounts and even a private main stage–area party.

Key West Theater members also get discounts on room rentals, on-site classes and workshops, and The Grateful Guitar boutique guitar shop that sells guitars and ukuleles.

The theater is based in a colorfully renovated building at 512 Eaton St., originally the First Baptist Church of Key West in 1848. Its venues include a 278-seat main stage theater, the 50-seat Back Stage Listening Room, a recording studio and conference room.

The theater has partnered with the nonprofit Dance Key West to offer classes such as Pilates, conditioning and improv dance.

A new “groove” autism movement therapy class is designed for children ages 7-12 with autism, their parents, teachers and paraprofessionals. The class utilizes an empowering sensory integration strategy with movement, music and improvisation into a whole-brain thinking approach.

Kelly Norman, who got her start in the music industry working on projects in Key West for artists such as country star Kenny Chesney, is married to local artist Nick Norman, who has opened for acts such as Lee Brice, Lee Ann Womack and Edwin McCain. The two, who met in Key West, have a 3-year-old daughter, Taylor.

Key West Theater’s mission is “to make the performing arts relevant in the lives of more people by providing performance space and demonstrating that the arts engages, inspires and unites.” The theater was named best performing arts venue in the local 2017 and 2018 Key West People’s Choice Awards.

For more information: thekeywesttheater.com

Florida Keys visitor information: fla-keys.com or 1-800-FLA-KEYS

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Key West Theater, undergoing a dramatic transformation , has put Key West on the radar of top musicians, comedians, artists and entertainers.

Key West Theater, undergoing a dramatic transformation , has put Key West on the radar of top musicians, comedians, artists and entertainers.

Kelly with husband Nick.

Kelly with husband Nick.

The two, who met in Key West, have a 3-year-old daughter, Taylor.

The two, who met in Key West, have a 3-year-old daughter, Taylor.

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