“It’s really a great time to reflect on all of the uses of this building that the community has been able to participate in,” says Lucy Mercer, the founder and executive director of the Throckmorton Theatre. “This was the original vaudeville theater for town.”
With a free weekly concert series already drawing busloads of residents from the Redwoods – and a free new "Fun with Dick and Bob" talk show series hosted by Dick Bright and Bob Sarlatte garnering loads of laughs on Saturday mornings – the Throckmorton Theatre has already begun celebrating its pair of anniversaries with events designed to show off the eclectic variety of programmed that has occurred there since Mercer officially opened in 2004.
Now the organization is prepping a birthday bash, celebrating its 10-year anniversary as well as the centennial of the building at 142 Throckmorton Ave. in which it lives, all to benefit the theater’s ongoing programs. Co-hosted by Marin music legend Narada Michael Walden and local comedy king Mark Pitta, the March 29 event will feature “unforgettable entertainment, a chance to bid on some unique auction items, cocktails, wine and dessert,” with revelers invited start the night with a $60 dinner at “anniversary partner restaurants” (and Mill Valley Chamber of Commerce members) Beerworks, Bungalow 44, La Ginestra, Piazza D’Angelo or Vasco or go straight to the $150 show at 7:30 p.m.
When Mercer bought the building at 142 Throckmorton Ave. in the early 2000s, she knew she was purchasing a space with a colorful history that was deeply rooted in the history of the cultural arts in Mill Valley.
Under the moniker the Hub, the venue featured Charlie Chaplin movies and live vaudeville acts. Mercer says she dug through old microfiche to determine the opening timeline, with vaudeville programming beginning in 1914 and expanded programming in 1915. In the 1920s, the buzz around the opening of the Sequoia Theatre downtown shifted attention over there, forcing the Hub to shut down.
Over the years that followed, the space had a number of uses, including as a bowling alley and a rollerskating rink, until the Oddfellows bought it in the 1970s, turning into a private venue for a variety of meetings and events. Those events included the “Saturday Nite Movies,” the precursor to the Mill Valley Film Festival. The building was little used and had fallen into disrepair when Mercer bought it and eventually launched a nonprofit organization to help sustain it as one of Mill Valley’s inimitable arts organizations.
In 2009 when Mercer, seeing her own personal savings dwindle as she invested everything in the theater, had to reach out to donors to keep it alive. With fundraising events like the Anniversary Bash, she seeks to raise around $500,000 a year in donations, which accounts for about one-third of the venue’s annual budget (the other two-thirds come from ticket sales).
“The community’s response was, ‘Yes those programs are valuable and yes we want to help support them and they rallied around us,” Mercer says. “Once the community was better informed, we have been successfully building strength and planning a broad future.
Mercer promises all sorts of anniversary celebrations and events this year, including something to mark the 10-year anniversary of another local institution, Mark Pitta & Friends Tuesday Night Comedy.
“It’s going to be a great year,” she says.
The 411: The Throckmorton Theatre Anniversary Bash is March 29 at 7:30 p.m. Click here for more info or to buy tickets.