Smith brings ‘Jesus’ to New York
July 1, 2005
One Monday morning in February, Barry Smith woke up, went back to sleep, woke again and was struck by the thought that this was the day to do something about his one-man play, “Jesus in Montana.” Finding the website for the New York International Fringe Festival, Smith discovered it was indeed the day to do something: submissions for the festival had to be postmarked that very day.Smith spent the day assembling a video and script of his show, which had had its world premiere at Aspen High School’s Black Box Theatre in January, along with newspaper clippings and a mission statement, which went unproofed due to time constraints. Smith shoved the package in the mail, went back to sleep and forgot about the day’s ordeal entirely.”Because it’s New York, and I’m a bumpkin,” said Smith, a 38-year-old native of Greenville, Miss., who has lived in the valley 14 years and writes the weekly Irrelativity column for The Aspen Times. “It was more an exercise for a deadline junkie. The New York Fringe Festival – that seemed so huge that it was just a whim to send it in.”
A few weeks ago, Smith got a large package back from the Fringe Fest folks. “And I thought, ‘That’s nice, they sent back the script with my rejection letter. They didn’t have to do that,'” he said.Only slightly anxious to see how the rejection was phrased, Smith put the package at the bottom of the junk-mail pile, turning his attention first to throwing out fliers from Ace Hardware. Smith wasn’t dismayed about his certain fate; thanks to pure luck of the draw, he was already scheduled to perform “Jesus in Montana” at the first Boulder Fringe Festival and was planning a Colorado tour around that booking.You’re not going to believe what happened next! (And please, gentle reader, forgive my misdirection.) It wasn’t a rejection letter inside that large package.”It said, ‘Dear participant, Congratulations!'” said Smith. “Things started swirling; I got tunnel vision. It was like a bad scene from a bad movie.”
Smith will perform his one-man show – whose title has been lengthened to “Jesus in Montana: Adventures in a Doomsday Cult,” to make up for the fact that the show itself has been cut to one hour – between five and seven times at the 300-seat Village Theater in Greenwich Village. (His schedule will be set within two weeks.) The festival includes more than 200 presentations.”Jesus in Montana: Adventures in a Doomsday Cult,” like “Jesus in Montana,” is about Smith’s move, in the mid-’90s, to Missoula, Mont., to live with someone he thought was the embodiment of Jesus Christ. The show, directed by Lynn Aliya, uses extensive imagery to track Smith’s childhood, his hitchhiking trip to Montana and his belief that a retired chiropractor who went by “Doc” was the Son of God.Smith will also give four performances of the show in the valley this summer. “Jesus in Montana” will be at the Theatre Aspen Tent as part of Theatre Aspen’s Sunday Series July 31 and Aug. 7; at the Blue Acacia in Glenwood Springs Aug. 5; and at Steve’s Guitars in Carbondale Aug. 6. The Boulder date and regional tour have been put on hold so Smith can prepare for New York. And he expects to make it there.
“I think it’s big-city good,” he said. “I’m willing to play the bumpkin card. They’ll be charmed by my down-homeness.”Stewart Oksenhorn’s e-mail address is email@example.com