As a confused twentysomething, when Barry Smith had nowhere else to turn, he, like many before him, turned to Jesus.
In fact, Smith will tell you he "found" Jesus. But there's just one small difference between Smith and the thousands of Colorado Springs residents who, at this point in his story, feel a strong similarity: When Smith speaks of finding Jesus, he means it quite literally.
Smith had learned that the second coming of the messiah was in, of all places, Montana. And Jesus was perfectly OK with Smith, a devotee, but otherwise a complete stranger, crashing in his basement for a little while. Three years, actually. Now that's divine.
Fast-forward 10 years or so. Smith's hindsight is 20/20. He says he's not crazy, and believes he never was. But he feels his story is worth sharing if not for his own sake, then for the amusement of others.
His one-man show, Jesus in Montana, which he developed from his spiritual odyssey, won the Outstanding Solo Show award at the 2005 New York International Fringe Festival. It has also taken home similar accolades at festivals in Montreal and, just last month, in Vancouver.
This weekend, though, Smith could face his toughest crowd yet. He'll be performing a three-day run of Jesus in Manitou. And, he admits, the more he learns about the conservative religious nature of the greater Springs region, the more pause he has about performing here.
He hopes, however, that people "get" where he's coming from with his story.
"It's an explanation of my rationalization," says Smith, a spoken word poet and humor columnist for the Aspen Times. "My show is not anti-religion. But it's also not pro-religion. A sense of humor is a must, despite your religious beliefs.
"It's really not worth picketing."
The show, Smith says, is just an attempt at rationalizing why a small sub-sect of the eastern religion Baha'i, comprising of no more than about 150 people, is so convinced that it has found Jesus. And it's an attempt for him to explain his own belief.
"I was just curious," he says. "I've always been willing to follow my intuition, no matter how weird a place it would lead me."
It's easy to understand Smith's naivety. He grew up in a religious home in Mississippi, but as a teenager, swore off religion and moved to California. By the time he moved to Colorado, he says he honestly didn't know what to believe. When he caught wind of Baha'i being taught around Aspen, he was intrigued and signed up for the teachings.
It all seemed normal enough enlightening, in fact. So when his instructor, on the last day of class, dropped one last bombshell, he listened with excited ears: Oh, by the way, that Jesus we've been talking about? He's back, and in Montana. How 'bout that?!?!
"This is potentially apocalyptic," Smith recalls thinking at the time.
When the end never came, Smith concluded that the man he once felt sure was Jesus, probably isn't.
No hard feelings, though. Smith's done OK for himself. And oddly enough, he's pretty sure this path has led him to his higher calling: humorous-self-deprecating-one-man-PowerPoint-slideshow performances.
"People will ask, "Wow, you actually want people to know that about you?'" he says. "Apparently, I'm marching to the beat of a different drummer. It just seemed like the next obvious step."
Jesus in Montana
Manitou Art Theater, 515 Manitou Ave., Manitou Springs
Thursday, Oct. 19, through Saturday, Oct. 21, 8 p.m.
Tickets: $15, all ages; call 685-4729.
The striking colors and textures are reminiscent of Southern Colorado and New Mexico. Lovely work.