Conch Republic (The Musical!) Key West Fringe
The season closes with the wildly successful third production of CONCH REPUBLIC (The Musical!) by Monnie King and the very talented Gayla Morgan. Last year, it blew the roof off of the San Carlos—and is sure to do so again.​

The SMASH HIT returns for the third year! Don't miss the battle between the Feds and the Conchs over a roadblock that threatened Key West's tourist business. ”Tuneful, colorful, funny…it delivers more than it promises.” C.S. Gilbert, Solares Hill 

The story of those historic moments in April 1982 when Key West declared its independence from the United States. It’s a rollicking musical tale of the Conchs taking on the Feds in one of the greatest PR stunts ever. The musical madness captures the antics of the wacky and wonderful people who helped make Key West the unique place it is.​ 

Cast: Michael McCabe, Laurie Breakwell, Annie Miners, Billy Cartledge, Kyle Caskey, Tony Konrath, J.B. McLendon, David Black
Directed by: Rebecca Tomlinson
Music Direction by: Gayla Morgan ​

Location: The San Carlos Institute, 516 Duval Street
Dates: FOUR NIGHTS ONLY! April 23 - 26, 2015
Time: Curtain at 8pm
Tickets: Tickets are available through or 305-295-7676


In April of 1982, the United States Border Patrol set up a roadblock in front of the Last Chance Saloon at Mile Marker 126, effectively closing the only road to the Keys.  To this day nobody knows why.  Saloon-owner Skeeter Davis called Key West Mayor Dennis Wardlow, complaining about the seventeen-mile traffic jam that ensued while the Border Patrol stopped every car leaving the Keys, supposedly searching for illegal aliens.  But they searched glove compartments, trunks, under front seats - spaces where a human being could not possibly fit.  Why?

National media caught wind of the story of the five-hour traffic jam and spread it to the world.  Tourists started canceling reservations.  Hotels emptied, truck deliveries stalled, Key West was paralyzed.  Its residents were bewildered - and frightened.
Community leaders gathered to decide what to do.  For the purpose of the play, four real-life citizens represent the major response - Mayor Dennis Wardlow, Ed Swift, Virginia Panico and David Paul Horan.  And lawyer Horan made the first hopeful move.
Horan quickly filed an injunction against the government's action in Federal Court in Miami, saying that the Border Patrol couldn't artificially create a new border into the US, and that it constituted illegal search and seizure.  Wardlow, Swift and Panico joined him in that courtroom.  The court did nothing.
Leaving the courthouse, the delegation was met by a great gathering of the national press demanding "What are you going  to do, Mr. Mayor?" 
The Mayor unfurled a tourist-souvenir Key West conch-decorated flag, and said, according to Wardlow, the first thing that came to mind: if Key West was to be treated like a foreign land, it might as well become one.  It would become a Conch Republic in reality, and would secede from the US.  (Who actually came up with the secession tactic? No one now knows for sure; it had evidently been pre-discussed by the four Key Westers in Miami.)
Back in Key West the community splintered.  In the play, characters Bubba, Maria and Steve reflect the confused opinions of the townspeople.  They are not real-life people, but composite characters.
The city was full of dissension and fear. Federal agents flooded in, along with press from all over the world.  What would happen next?  Would martial law be imposed?  Without resolution, the town's economic ruin was inevitable.
On April 23, 1982, with the world watching, Mayor Wardlow and cohorts mounted a flatbed truck in Clinton Square, and Wardlow made his historic proclamation:  Key West was seceding from the US–and declaring war.  He demonstrated this last point by turning to a startled local U.S. Navy admiral, whom he had craftily invited onto his flatbed truck, and striking him with a loaf of Cuban bread.  
Wardlow went on to admit that little Key West could never win against its huge adversary, surrendered his "weapon," and asked for a billion dollars of aid, to rebuild.
It was brilliant!  The press went wild!  And the plucky Conch Republic was born!  The government began dismantling the roadblock without ever admitting it had been illegal, and Key West was globally confirmed as the unique, legendary and high-spirited party-town it has always been.