What many foodies and bar-hoppers seem to have overlooked in their weekend parades through the Mission are the small performance halls dotting the neighborhood. Emerging dancemakers are toying with form upstairs at Dance Mission and Dancer's Group Studio Theater, while sketch comedy troupes and performance artists are finding out what works at the Grasshopper Palace. And at the Marsh, which has weathered neighborhood change with uncommon hardiness, cult shows, future films, and soon-to-be-nationally-known performers are being launched. Over its 10-year existence the Marsh has grown from being housed in a 110-seat theater to occupying a 12,000-square-foot community arts center, and it's been the place where a fictionalized Karen Carpenter overcame adversity in the wildly popular, affectionately satirical musical A Karen Carpenter Christmas, monologuist Josh Kornbluth ruminated on his communist parentage in Red Diaper Baby (which eventually won him a book deal), and playwright Charlie Varon sent us on a theatrical goose chase with Ralph Nader Is Missing! before taking the show back East.
The Marsh and its adjoining Mock Cafe regularly host works in progress, workshops, and kids' stuff as well, and there will be some of each at "The Marsh 10th Anniversary Festival and Carnival." The festival begins at 3 p.m. Friday with the Sparrow Brigade, a parade of electric cars and motorcycles, and Zappys, electric skateboards and scooters (free), followed at 7 p.m. by the Marsh All-Star Gala Benefit, where Varon and Kornbluth perform with clown Jeff Raz and juggling storyteller Sara Felder -- local eateries provide refreshments and Gunnar Madsen plays waltzes at a post-show dessert-dance ($100). The Community Carnival features a pet parade and activities for all ages, although performers will especially enjoy "Fish for Funding" and "Knock the 'Little Man' Off the Chair" as well as tips on circus arts, costuming, and makeup. It begins at 1 p.m. Saturday ($5-10), followed at 8:30 p.m. by the All-Star Performance with J. Raoul Brody, Ian Shoales/Merle Kessler, and many others ($15-20). All events take place at the Marsh, 1062 Valencia (at 22nd Street), S.F. Call 826-5750 for more information.