Smith's middle name must be "Music." She arrived in the Bay
Area from Kansas (just like Dorothy) in 1957, with a degree in Music
Education from Kansas University. Typical of the time, Marilyn
placed her career on hold while she and her husband Bob raised five
children, who all attended Mill Valley Public Schools.
became involved with the music program at Old Mill School. Before
she knew it, was producing musicals for Steve Riffkin, then a
student teacher. Concurrently, she produced outdoor concerts
for the Marin Symphony and the Children's Fun Concerts with Hugo
Rinaldi at the Veteran's Auditorium at the Civic Center. In 1976,
with funding from Mill Valley, Marilyn produced Steve Riffkin's
original Bicentennial Suite and presented it in the Headlands. This
production involved setting up a shuttle bus system, which led to
her next adventure.
Board of the Mountain Play found itself without a production staff;
they had filled in the 1976 program with a free band concert and
picnic. They discovered they needed a shuttle bus system to get
crowds on and off the mountain, so they asked Marilyn to produce the
next year's play - mainly because she had busing experience.
Marilyn's first Mountain Play (1977) was "Clothes," a musical
written by George Leonard and Susan Trott, with original music by
Steve Riffkin. A takeoff on "The Emperors New Clothes," the play
was an instant hit. With "Clothes" the Mountain Play discovered
that Marin audiences love musical theater.
During the next three years, Marilyn continued as a volunteer
producer of the event. She brought in Martin Frick, Michelle Swanson
and Ben Dickson as Artistic Directors. In 1981, James Dunn,
then head of the Drama Department at the College of Marin, came on
board, bringing access to an enthusiastic talent pool from the
College. Dunn added "surprise" elements to almost every
production. But Marilyn would be the one who scouted and located the "special effects" requested by Dunn. The effects ran the gamut
from a World War II airplane, to a cow, a horse-drawn carriage, a
motorcycle, even Cuban dancers -effects that gave the productions
For the last
quarter century musicals have continued to thrill Mountain Play
audiences. Marilyn continued as Executive Director until retiring in
1999, her 23rd year with the organization. Today the Mountain Play,
in its 92nd season, is thriving. This wouldn't have
happened without Marilyn Smith.