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In the Sticks

Dark chuckles from the city of prisons

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Told in what he describes as a snapshot storytelling style, Manitou Art Theater director and international clown of mystery Jim Jackson will bring a needed dose of local theater to Manitou Springs this weekend.

Stick Guns is Jackson's semiautobiographical one-man show about growing up in the shadow of the state's maximum-security prison in Cañon City. According to Jackson, the project is six years in the making and was originally written as a traditional multi-character play. But because it involved a high-school shooting, it was displaced by the 1999 Columbine tragedy.

Since then, Jackson reconceived it into a one-man show in which he takes on several characters in sketches he's reluctant to call true stories. "It grows out of a boy's daydream of playing with stick guns. What if that was real life, and you had to have permit to carry a concealed stick?" Jackson mused.

Inspired in part by the work of Italian playwright Dario Fo, Jackson considers his play a dark satire. "It kind of grows out of culture that says, Hey, if you don't have power this is how you get it. 'Our heroes all have guns, if you have a just cause then maybe you should get one too."

Though it has been almost 30 years since Jackson has lived in Cañon City, his father and brother still live there, so he has plenty of occasions to visit. Growing up, his two best friends had fathers who worked as prison guards and he recalls "mystery families" who came through town to live near an imprisoned family member. "There's something eerie about it," Jackson said. "It really hasn't changed much in 18 years except to become more like it was."

-- John Dicker

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