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Barry Smith: King of the underworld

Moving out of the basement and into ... squalidity


Solo performer Barry Smith eats a breakfast of - champions all weekend at the MAT.
  • Solo performer Barry Smith eats a breakfast of champions all weekend at the MAT.
Imagine flying to London to join a community of squatters who collectively live inside various abandoned flats throughout the city. Then picture not showering for weeks while recording every last detail of your stay.


This is just what actor Barry Smith did, and he's sharing the experience with his new work American Squatter, coming to the Manitou Art Theater this weekend.

Smith, via his Aspen home, describes this show as his "obsessively well-documented teenage rebellion."

In his early 20s, Smith, now 41, was tired of his father's clean and kempt household. So he descended upon the squatter community of late '80s London, where he lived for a little over a year and engaged in the rebellious activities of the time: punk rock, drug use and skateboarding.

"[This is a] journey of trying to break away from family. Everybody can identify with that," says MAT artistic director Jim Jackson.

And Smith makes it very easy, Jackson adds.

"He has people laughing right away."

Combining stand-up comedy and an enormous catalogue of personal pictures and videos loaded into a PowerPoint presentation, Smith's show has received outstanding reviews across North America.

His first performance, Jesus in Montana: Adventures in a Doomsday Cult, which came to the MAT last season, was equally sensational. It told the story of Smith's stay with a group of people who believed a man living in their basement was Jesus Christ. Smith toured both shows this summer in Canada, winning awards in multiple fringe festivals.

You might recognize his name from other arenas, too: He has written a humor column in the Aspen Times for the past 12 years and regularly contributes commentary to a radio program. He has also worked on numerous short films and, for a long time, worked an audio-visual job, which he says turned out aiding his performance career.

"[I had] a hideously tedious job ... [now I] use my powers for good," he jokes.

Now Smith's in such a good place, he's done "just what everyone told me not to do ... I quit my day job."

Quite a feat for an untrained actor. In fact, Smith is part of a new form of theater all together, according to Jackson.

"We're working out a very personal style of theater it's very fresh," he says, adding that this season's schedule includes shows that couldn't possibly be published or performed by anyone but the artists who created them.

Smith will lead a writer's workshop this Saturday for the public as a part of the series "Masters of the MAT." There are classes from each of the performers on this season's bill.

"I never considered writing a job," says Smith, but now he's getting used to it. He's currently in the process of writing his next act which, like American Squatter, will probably wrap some moral-driven stuff inside a bizarre story.

"I did point out it's a comedy, right?"

American Squatter

Manitou Art Theater, 515 Manitou Ave., Manitou Springs

Nov. 15-17, 8 p.m., Nov. 18, 2 p.m.

Tickets: $16; call 685-4729 or visit for more.


Masters at the MAT: "Write Now!" led by Barry Smith

Manitou Art Theater, 515 Manitou Ave.

Nov. 17, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Tickets: $30; call 685-4729 or visit for more.

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