About Us

Tomatoes Tried To Kill Me But Banjos Saved My Life is a heartfelt passion project that began as an idea not long after a devastating life event caused Keith Alessi to think differently about his future.

Keith was encouraged by friends and family to share his story and that became the basis for the show.

The show began its journey to the stage at the Toronto Fringe Festival in 2018.  Several other Fringe Festivals followed.  The run started with small, but enthusiastic, audiences and built throughout the year.

After winning three awards at the Frigid Fringe Festival in New York City in 2019, the show continued to gain traction, winning additional awards, excellent reviews and sellout runs in multiple cities along the way.  The year ended with the show being selected to participate in the Fringe Encore Series, Off Broadway, at the Historic Soho Playhouse in New York City where it sold out the run.  The series featured 18 "Best Of" shows selected from Fringe Festivals worldwide.

When theatres went dark in 2020, touring was suspended but Keith participated in a limited number of online festivals.   The show was a finalist for an OnComm Award in the United Kingdom in 2021.  The OnComm is given by The Off West End Theatre Awards and recognizes excellence, innovation and ingenuity of independent Off West End Theatres across London.

With theatres reopening in 2022, our schedule is filling up.

Follow the journey here or on our social media platforms.


Keith Alessi - Writer and performer

Before taking to the stage, Keith was well known as a successful public company CEO, entrepreneur and college professor. He has led companies in both Canada and the United States. 

He has performed in Fringe Festivals and other professional venues across Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom since 2018.

A dual CA/US citizen, Keith splits his time between Vancouver, British Columbia and Meadows of Dan, Virginia. He is a certified public accountant and received his MBA from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. 

100% of the performance fees from the show are donated to cancer and theatres charities.  At the end of 2021 contributions exceeded $500,000 (CAD). 

Here is his LinkedIn Page to find out what he did before taking to the stage!

Erika Conway-Director, Producer, Dramaturg


Erika Conway, a Canadian actress, writer, director and producer is no stranger to the stage. Her 30-year performance career has included acting in multiple roles both on stage and in film/ TV, as well as creating and producing her own one woman show which had sold our performances at the Edmonton Fringe Festival. 

 The desire to connect with authentic and meaningful stories ultimately lead her to expand her work on ‘Tomatoes Tried To Kill Me But Banjos Saved My Life.’  and has been the inspiration to continue her passion of creativity in building a coaching business that helps people unlock their passions and discover their authentic voice.