Toby Tent Show Thursday Sep 16 Saturday Sep 18 8:00pm Under Big Tent Sponsored By

This year, the Rivertime Players will be presenting "How Now White Cow, or You Can Put Your Shoes in the Oven, But That Don't Make 'em Biscuits; A Toby Show." Hailey S. Darkheart and Ida Clare, city slickers from the big city of Detroit, visit Toby and the gang and try to swindle them out of their old mild cow, Lightning, as they think she's giving spiked milk!

The plot of this show is real thin, so if you were to blink you might miss it. And if you get up to go to that fancy indoor outhouse, well then, you will have no idea what happened! And this year's show is chock-full of funny bits, singin' and dancin', and brand new old jokes that we've never done before!

For advanced tickets, call the Parsons Municipal Building at 731.847.6358.


A truly American art form, the red-headed, freckle-faced Toby was the most enduring character on the American stage. For over 100 years, tent shows entertained millions. At their peak in the first two decades of the twentieth century, these traveling repertory troupes numbered over five hundred, traveling throughout the Midwest and South. Tent shows developed out of a number of different stage styles including melodrama, chautauquas, the circus, and vaudeville. According to Toby, a Toby show is "sorta like a vaudeville show with a plot, but a real thin plot." Surrounding this plot are comedy gags, music, variety acts, and, now and then, serious drama.

Several people in Decatur County can remember the excitement felt by the community when the Bisbee's rolled into town. For 42 years the Bisbee's Comedians entertained thousands as they travelled from Memphis through Tennessee and Kentucky. The tour began every April, with Parsons being the second stop, and concluded in Collierville in October. The show began each evening with a 30 minute concert by the orchestra. After the orchestra, the play began. The play was typically a three or four act comedy or comedy drama with vaudeville specialties between the acts.

The beginning of our tent show can be traced to its original founder, Richard Henderson, who formed the Henderson Stock Company on December 8, 1898 in Otsego, Michigan. Henderson formed the company with the intention of temporarily employing himself and his out-of-work actor friends. Henderson successfully toured his company until his retirement in 1934.

Harold Rosier, a featured actor in the show, managed the company after Henderson's retirement. He later purchased the company from Henderson's widow in 1937 and changed the name to the Rosier Players. In the spring of 1966, the Rosiers bought the Collier Show, in Farmer City, IL, and added the contents to their current collection.

Harold toured his company through the Midwest until a heart attack forced him from the road in 1975. After the 1976 season, the Rosiers donated the show to the Jackson Community College in Jackson, Michigan. The college continued the show until the end of the 1991 season when everything was packed away in storage.

In 1997, the widow of Harold Rosier, donated the complete tent show to Dr. Dawn Larsen and the Hard Corn Players of Gallatin, TN. The Hard Corn Players were 10 to 15 young actors hired to function as an old time tent company and tour throughout the Southeast in the summers. The actors functioned as a troupe; driving the trucks, cooking meals, selling tickets, and sleeping in smaller tents surrounding the big tent in order to protect it from the weather. The actors truly experienced a "stand with a tent show."

In November 2006 the show was donated to the Parsons Arts Council. With this gift The Rivertime Players were born and our first production of "How Now White Cow" took place on September 22, 2007 during the First Annual Peavine Festival.

The show includes, a 45' x 90' tent, three 1942 stake trucks, 300-400 original scripts, costumes, painted drops (some 100 years old), 300 folding chairs, and other necessities of the road.


Photos from last year's show - Lead Petunias.