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Keith Alessi. Photo courtesy of the Ottawa Fringe Festival.

Fringe Review: Tomatoes Tried to Kill Me But Banjos Saved My Life

By Colin Noden on June 20, 2021

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Tomatoes Tried to Kill Me But Banjos Saved My Life
Created by Keith Alessi
Produced by Quivering Dendrites (Vancouver)

70m | G | Storytelling
Content Warnings: Abuse, suicide, and cancer

Is there some power in banjos? Banjo Mojo? Not for everyone. But banjo lovers rejoice! They were a transformative catalyst in Keith Alessi’s life.

Banjos, banjo tunes, and banjo music culture play a central part in Keith’s story. You’ll hear several special banjos in the play, with stories behind each one, and a good supply of tunes.
Getting tired of reading the word Banjo?

Then just watch him as he picks one up and begins tuning. He and the instrument melt into each other. This is one of the most commented upon moments from viewers in our stream. Imagine this to be you, as you settle into your passion and purpose.

But the process which brought Keith to this moment wasn’t through banjo lessons. It was through a series of phrases he had collected to help him climb to a CEO level. The banjo was an unexpected prize after an act of courage.

Keith Alessi. Photo courtesy of the Ottawa Fringe Festival.

Every member of the audience who sees this play will leave with a different life-changing phrase stuck in their heads.

The difference between this play and some TED Talks is that we journey with Keith Alessi as he relives a challenging life. Every member of the audience who sees this play will leave with a different life-changing phrase stuck in their heads. We re-experience the power of those phrases with him as he surmounts each obstacle.

I could list the phrases, but they would mean nothing to you now. “Look through the windshield, not the rear-view mirror; One step in front of the other; Let other people in”.

See? Nothing except the beginning of a country tune.

Here’s another difference with Keith’s story. He had no life goal other than overcoming the obstacle at hand. No vision board; no mantra; no theology. Just survival. And yet he somehow discovers a passion and inner peace which brings about a connectedness a yogi would envy.

I think this is the true intent of Tomatoes Tried to Kill Me But Banjos Saved My Life.
Oh, and about those tomatoes? They’re yesterday’s news.


Tomatoes Tried to Kill Me But Banjos Saved My Life is screening at the Ottawa Fringe Festival until June 27, 2021. Tickets are pick-your-price from $12.50 to $47.50 (100% of which goes to the artists) plus a $2.50 surcharge. Visit ottawafringe.com for streaming information and the complete festival lineup. Read more reviews at apt613.ca/fringe. Shows are on-demand, however the festival’s ticketing platform can take up to 12 hours to email the streaming link. So although there’s no risk of online shows selling out, your best bet is to buy tickets early!

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