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Why the name Rhubarb?
In British theater, it used to be common for a crowd of extras in acting to shout the word "rhubarb" repeatedly
and out of step with each other, to cause the effect of general hubbub. As a result, the word "rhubarb" sometimes
is used to mean a length of superfluous or irrelevant chatter by a chorus or group of actors.
Possibly from this usage, possibly from a variant on "rube", or perhaps some of both, the word also denotes a
loud argument. Apparently, while at our Tam Valley revue in its first year rehearsals, a difficult classically
trained theatrical volunteer caused a lot of fur to fly. Someone remarked, "Oh, what a Rhubarb!" and there you are!
A little history - Let's put a show on in the Old Barn!
The Tamalpais Valley Improvement Club, celebrating it's 90th year this year, started an annual community variety
show called the RHUBARB REVUE in 1954 to generate community spirit and income to build a local Community Center,
where the show is still held. It has supported the purchase of open space, including Rhubarb Park at Tennessee Valley.
In addition to the show, Tam Valley neighbors knocked on doors and manned the phones to raise money.
These actions resulted in bringing light, gas, traffic lights and the Tam Valley School to the community.
In addition, the TVIC formed the Tamalpais Community Services District and with others, fought a 50,000 person
planned community in Tennessee Valley to have been called Marincello.
For years, the show sold out every performance and people lined up hours before the show for the best seats.
Some patrons brought full-blown dinners with candelabras and tablecloths or some simply brought brown bag picnics
and everyone washed it all down with liberal amounts of libation.
Like the Mountain Play, the Rhubarb Revue was a Mill Valley tradition. The show’s naughty and sometimes risqué
humor had always been the talk of the County. (Some Rhubarb Revue performers and organizers spun off a group
called the Tam Valley Players, which put on a number of acclaimed professional stage shows during the '60s and '70s,
including "The Crucible.")
But it's not always been easy to keep Northern California's longest running comedy cabaret variety show alive.
Despite sell-out crowds, volunteerism and community spirit faltered and the core Rhubarb cast and crew’s enthusiasm
and energy ran out. Without the income generated by the show, the Community Center fell into disrepair and TVIC
membership and involvement waned. The beloved Rhubarb Revue folded in 1992.
Rhubarb Redux - The Comeback Kid
Yet this wild and delightfully grass roots show could not be held down. In 1999, TVIC activist John King felt compelled
to resurrect the Rhubarb to renew community spirit and generate community income that would complete the rehabilitation of
the Community Center. In 2000, John and his wife Perry King called on Rhubarb veterans Jacquie Crank, Love Goldman and
Keith and Jeanne Jensen to help round up the old Rhubarb Players - including Jim Steenson, Terry Kildow, Chris Mongelli,
and Russ Irving - to make the Rhubarb Revue live again.
John and Perry brought in talented and energetic friends - Mark and Jane Miller, Kali Herrera, Amy Kemper, Sally Phillips,
Jennifer Argall, Tim Ryan, their son Nick King, TCSD Commissioner Bob Bertram - to round out the cast and crew.
Encouraged by the show's success, and determined to make the Rhubarb the anticipated yearly event that it had been
in the past, John directed, produced and wrote "The Rhubarb Revue 2000!" The veterans trod the boards once more,
and some newcomers, including stage manager, Jeff Brown, and local musicians, Rob Schaaf, Jim Jacobs, Van Dyke Roth,
and the Blenders all contributed to a polished show. Returning soundman, Mark Miller, ran a dizzying array of sci-fi
sound effects from his computer.
Building Up Steam
Since then, the Rhubarb has been going strong. Aided by directors, Jim Steenson, Bern Healey and most recently,
Van Dyke Roth, the Rhubarb is continuing to thrive in the Tam Valley Community. The show has veered away somewhat
from the naughty or risqué humor to a more PG-rated bill of fare, featuring vaudeville, comic melodrama, film,
television & song parodies, mild political or cultural humor, dance or martial arts from local academies, and song
from local musicians or groups.