At first glance, you might not guess that Beth Marshall is among the most respected and influential members of Central Florida's performing arts scene, but don't let her bold tattoos and salty Southern twang – as seen in the films Sunlight Jr. and Cassadaga – fool you. Beneath Marshall's larger-than-life exterior beats the heart of a Local Hero (as certified by a 2007 Bank of America award) who has been one of Orlando's most effective arts advocates and a dedicated mentor to upcoming artists for over two decades.
Nearly 23 years ago, an impromptu audition during an Orlando vacation led Marshall to abandon plans to buy a home in Kansas City, and instead relocate to Central Florida. Her résumé as an actor, director and instructor reads like a roll call of fondly remembered former theaters, from the Civic ("it was our bread and butter up until the day it closed its doors"), Stage Left and Acting Studio Company to Impacte, Temenos and Theatre Downtown.
Marshall is best known for her former role as leader of the Orlando International Fringe Theatre Festival from 2003 to 2011, during the event's transition from downtown to Loch Haven Park and its subsequent explosive growth. "The Fringe is something I thought was so necessary for Orlando," says the woman who guided the organization from the brink of bankruptcy to being the longest-running such festival in America. "Fringe is the heart of the theatrical scene, the place where everyone comes together, and I don't think that's changing anytime soon. It put us on the map on a whole other level."
Since leaving the Fringe, her company Beth Marshall Presents has staged socially conscious dramas and original theatrical events (honoring Pulse Nightclub victims and Travyon Martin, among others), earning Marshall accolades from United Arts, the National New Play Network, National Women in Theater Conference, the Orlando Sentinel and Orlando Weekly.
"Never in a million years would I have ever thought that I'd be living in this city this long. I always think 'I'm going to move,' and yet still I'm here," Marshall admits. Her latest project, the comic musical 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, is an admitted departure. "With the state of the world right now, even I, who like deep dark drama and political art, am way OK with just having entertainment on stage. I'm enjoying the laughter."