City honors Tom Key as he retires as artistic director of Theatrical Outfit

Tom Key (Photo by Jerry Spiegel)

After 25 years as the Artistic Director of Downtown’s Theatrical Outfit, Tom Key retires from the position today June 30.

The City of Atlanta and Fulton County are honoring the veteran actor, director and arts leader with proclamations and Theatrical Outfit is naming its new Apprenticeship Program in his honor.

“The board began planning retirement festivities for Tom at the same time that we were launching plans to build our first-ever Apprentice program,” said Board Chair Ed Laity. “We quickly decided that naming this emerging artist program for Tom was so appropriate, given his years of mentoring young, professional talent in the city.”

The Tom Key Artistic Leadership Program will welcome its first class of interns in July 2020, and each will receive a 12-month practical apprenticeship at T.O, along with a salary.

Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms presented Key with the Phoenix Award, saying, “The city of Atlanta is proud to celebrate Tom Key’s legacy, which has strengthened Atlanta’s rich artistic heritage and forever transformed our city.” The City of Atlanta also named June 30, 2020, Tom Key Day thanks to Council Member Amir Farokhi. Fulton County and Commissioner Natalie Hall also honored Key by declaring June 28, 2020, as Tom Key Appreciation Day.

Fulton County’s proclamation reads: “Tom is one of Atlanta’s most prominent and celebrated actors and has appeared in over 100 productions at theatres from off Broadway to Los Angeles. Under his leadership as Artistic Director, Theatrical Outfit has developed into one of Atlanta’s premiere performing arts institutions.”

Key became Artistic Director of Atlanta’s second-oldest professional theatre company in 1995. He moved it from midtown to downtown’s Rialto Center for the Arts in 1999, and in 2005 led the theatre through the creation of its award-winning downtown home, the Balzer Theater at Herren’s. The Balzer Theater is the historical site of Herren’s, the first restaurant in Atlanta to voluntarily desegregate in 1962 and is the first U.S. theater to achieve LEED certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. Key’s programming of classics, regional and world premieres, and musicals explore themes of diversity, equality, ethnicity, and race.

Although Key is retiring from the Outfit, he does not plan to fade from the limelight. He intends to continue acting, directing and writing new works. His successor, Matt Torney, takes the helm on July 1.

“Tom has been an inspirational leader and has done incredible work at Theatrical Outfit over the past 25 years,” said Torney. “I am overjoyed to have his enthusiastic endorsement, and look forward to working with him on a mindful and smooth transition. Our philosophies are aligned and embodied in Theatrical Outfit’s mission to start conversations that matter—conversations that can lead to a more compassionate and just community.”

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