The Marsh began as a Monday night performance series at the legendary Hotel Utah, a historic drinking hole formerly frequented by gold miners and Beat poets, in 1989. Competition with Monday Night Football drove The Marsh to Morty’s in North Beach, the famous 1960s hang-out where Lenny Bruce and Sarah Vaughan, among others, used to perform. In 1990, The Marsh moved into the back room of a cafe.
The first staged workshop was Marga Gomez’s "Memory Tricks." Josh Kornbluth’s "Haiku Tunnel" was The Marsh’s first full-length production, and Charlie Varon’s initial solo piece "Honest Prophets" saw its debut there. In December 1992, The Marsh moved to its current location on Valencia Street. In 1996, The Marsh purchased the whole building, gradually developing the 12,000-square-foot (1,100 m2) space into a community arts center. It currently or recently has included two theaters, a comedy club, a cafe, and a youth theater.
In 2004, The Marsh produced the world premiere of Brian Copeland's solo show, "Not a Genuine Black Man." The production ran for two and a half years, making it the longest-running solo show in San Francisco history.
In March 2020, as the Covid19 global pandemic shuttered theaters and venues across The Bay Area, The Marsh transitioned to an online broadcasting platform: MarshStream, providing a full calendar of live theater performances, workshops and interactive programming to patrons sheltering in place.
Marsh Madness Competition
In 2018, up to 32 Teams of one to five performers presented 40-minute unplugged performances over a 3-day weekend as part of a theatrical competition. Audiences voted for their favorite teams and each team scored based on votes and attendance. The top scoring teams advanced to the "Final Four Showdown" on Sunday, 3/11/2018, where a judging panel of Marsh VIPs and celebrities crowned one Marsh Madness champion with $1,000 and a weekend run of their show at The Marsh. Second to Fourth place received cash prizes, plus a Marsh Rising performance.
Final Four Winning Shows of Marsh Madness 2018:
- 1st Place. The New Dolores by Mary Conors-Carson
- 2nd Place. July 14 - A Peek Into a 21st Century Love Affair by Anna Lisa Rhona
- 3rd (tie). Harsh Sadness by James Sundquist, Edna Mira Raia, Jeremy Krupp
- 3rd (tie). I Should Have Listened by Carrie Kartman
Notable past performers
- The Residents
- Robin Williams
- Don Reed
- Penny Arcade
- Brian Copeland
- Marga Gomez
- Josh Kornbluth
- Rick Reynolds
- Merle Kessler
- Charlie Varon
- Will Durst
- Mark Kenward
- Echo Brown
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