The Fringe Theatre

Our Team

Creator of Crazy, Founder of Fun, Founding Director, Director At Large
Ian Hilder

Queen of Quirk, Choreographer, Director, Producer, President
Lauren Crowley

Master of Magic, Choreographer, Director, Producer, VP/Clerk
Hope Lanza

Benevolent Overlord, Executive Technical Director, Treasurer/CFO
Craig Truax

Artistic Wizard, Scenic Designer
George Varga

Fairy Godmother, Costume and Prop Designer
Deb Pettiglio

Extraordinary Elf, Associate Producer, Dance Captain
Carolyn Truax

Wandering Gypsy, Visiting Director
Maryanne Cartier


We are a non-profit theatre group working with the Needham community and surrounding areas. Our annual Panto performances are a great educational and entertainment experience for adults and kids of all ages. Whether you want to be on stage, back stage, or in the audience, we have something for you!

Bringing a UK Tradition to the States

In 2009, our founder, Ian Hilder, got the hankering for a hometown tradition. Back in the UK where Ian grew up, Panto, or Pantomime, was a beloved tradition around the holiday season. The only issue? It was June. 

Well, it IS Panto, so he went with it, starting what we now know to be the evolution of the American Panto. Ian partnered with Needham Community Theatre to put on the first ever Panto - Cinderella. Eventually Ian formally founded The Fringe Theatre as a standalone group with the primary goal of writing and producing Pantos. Oh yes, we do! We write all our own shows!

After three more shows - Jack in the Beanstalk, The Little Mermaid, and (our first mashup) Little Red Robin Hood - Ian made the move back over the pond. It was presumed that the silly little group Ian created on a whim was riding off into the British sunset after almost half a decade of thigh slaps, "in" jokes, and plots that barely made sense. 

The American Band

After an overly-elaborate karaoke bon voyage party for our founding father, we knew that this "silly little group" we built was something we couldn't let go. Cue the three stooges - choreographers and associate producers Hope Lanza (Ausiello) and Lauren Pettiglio lead by local theatre vet, Craig Truax. The trio quickly realized we should have thought this through before blowing what little budget the group had left on an overly-elaborate karaoke bon voyage party, but hey, it was fun and Ian deserved it.

Anyways, the group manages to pull it together and producer the first official American Panto, Sleeping Beauty: Lost in Time. With the help of visiting director, Maryanne Truax, the trio produced the six shows, shepherding the group through A Decade of Madness in 2019. 

The #PantoFam

We pride ourselves on being an inclusive, supportive, and generally fun group. As the name indicates, we are here for the people "on the fringe." We take our mission of making the world smile just a little bigger very seriously, but we surely don't take ourselves too seriously. Since the beginning, the group has grown, a LOT. From scraping together about a dozen fools for our world premier in 2009 to putting almost 60 actors on stage, we are constantly reminded how lucky we are to be part of such a special group.

And while the group as a whole comes to make a figurative family, it's built on a a foundation of literal families. Parents and their children, siblings, and cousins work together on-, back-, and off- stage to make zany words on a page and a senseless track list into a captivating story that entertains audiences and shines just a little more light into the world! 

We are so proud to have watched children who were too shy to sing at auditions take a solo line in a performance, to have seen a mom who hasn't been on stage since high school get back up there (and kill it, frankly), to watch a mouse from the children's ensemble celebrate a decade of performances as a show-stealing lead. Most of all we are proud and honored (check the British spelling on that!) watch a group of strangers come together to make a family. We've seen ups and downs over the last decade, but we have, and always will, be together.

Our Performances


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1154 Great Plain Ave. Needham, MA

(339) 224 - 4439