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Mrs. Smith presents an hilarious fundraiser

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As part of the Southern Theater's Brouhaha Comedy Festival, actor David Hanbury (aka Mrs. Smith) will be bringing out his hilarious troupe of performers under the auspice of a fundraiser. Hanbury's alter ego was formed 10 years ago, and the actor has been performing the character around the Twin Cities for the past year and a half. Mrs Smith Presents... world premiered at the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge last May, and went on to Ars Nova in NYC this past November. City Pages stopped by Interact Center for Visual and Performing Arts where Hanbury and friends were about to start rehearsal. The following is an interview with the legendary Mrs. Smith.  

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City Pages: Hello Mrs. Smith.

Mrs. Smith: Hello Darling

CP: What brings you to Interact today?

MS: Well it's the final rehearsals, the final preparations for what's turning out to be a bigger fish than I had imagined when I first started this little fry. We're throwing a benefit at the Southern Theater. It's sort of enfolded into this Brouhaha Comedy Festival--I don't really understand that--it's the only slot they had free for this event. It's a fundraiser--a party really--and we're raising spirits, and awareness. It's for an incredible enterprise that I feel blessed to be a part of: The Carlyle Foundation Empowerment School for People and Cats with Severe and Persistent Challenges.  

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CP:  Can you tell us a little bit more about the foundation?

MS: The foundation is named after my beloved cat, Carlyle, who went missing three years ago. I've performed across the Twin Cities--across the country really--trying to raise awareness about Carlyle's whereabouts, but I realized that performing wasn't doing it. I really needed to throw myself into helping others. And I've learned that through some of the work I've done on myself. If you're suffering, throw yourself into helping others. I was just wandering the streets and I would walk up to a homeless man and just toss a thousand dollars in his face and say "Get a tooth!" And I realized that's not how you do it. You can't do it case by case. You need institutions. That's how you make real change. So we started the foundation.  

CP:  Can you say a little bit about your personal experience with your cat?

MS: Carlyle and I have a very deep love for one another. We've been through a lot--some pretty tumultuous times, several bad marriages. You know, when you go through something like that and a friend just stays by your side, doesn't it just make the friendship all the better? What if I had 14 bad marriages? Heck, it brought me closer to this person... person and/or cat--cat in my case. So it just got deeper and deeper and deeper. We would make artwork together. He was an incredible painter. He was starting to get into sculpture when some very unfortunate things started to go down. There was a kidnapping attempt that we escaped and we relocated here and I thought no one knew where we were.

CP:  Do you need a tissue?

MS:  Yes, thank you.  

I've hired a pet psychic, who's quite good. I've hired about every private eye under the sun working on this case. The leader of the case is pet psychic to the stars Sylvia Cleo. She's world-renowned and I feel extremely lucky to have her on retainer because she's quite in demand in Hollywood. The FBI are calling her constantly. We're always one paw print behind him. Recently we were basically shoving ourselves through the ventilation system of the Mall of America. She said, "He's all right, he's actually in very cool tunnel of air and it's refreshing him. He's enjoying it. And he's taking a break and if we turn around the bend..." Don't you know we turned that bend and I had the flashlight and the little puff of fur was right there. He had just gone! 

CP:  Who will be at the fundraiser?

MS:  It takes incredible amount of people to put this thing together. Thank God we have an amazing staff. Of course, my psychoanalyst Dr. Wan will be there. He is the clinical director of the foundation. He guides a lot of the work we do. Pet psychic to the stars Sylvia Cleo will be there, of course, gracing us with her presence. My nephews will be there because there's a nanny situation so they're doing their best to be helpful. My Emotions Anonymous sponsor who never leaves my side, and of course the indomitable Puss Puss who we all know as a performance art cabaret superstar. When I saw this creature do her... whatever it is, her stuff, I thought, 'Gangbusters! This kid has got it.'  

CP:  What can attendees expect at the fundraiser?

MS: Of course there will be dancing, there'll be music. There'll be testimonials from empowerment school clients themselves. The empowerment school brings people and cats with severe and persistent emotional challenges together in a structured, nurturing environment where they can learn from each other, learn important life skills, and learn to enjoy life more deeply. Any human being who's felt that calm when you have that kitty cat lying on your chest and you feel that purring, that centering. You know it's as good as having 600 mg of lithium. You know it! I know it. Literally, I know it.  

CP: Are there ways people can volunteer for this foundation?  

MS:  I know we're throwing a fundraiser in the dead center of a horrifying recession. And I'm saying to all these unemployed people out there, you don't have to write a check. Come and help. Give of your time. Stamp stamps, stuff envelopes, hold the paw of a kitty cat in the midst of a blazing psychotic episode.

Last definitely not least, your readers will not want to miss a certain special celebrity guest who will be appearing. She happens to be a dear friend of mine and an empowerment school board member. She's a singer, superstar megawatt ultra celebrity. She's donating her performance. She's French Canadian, so the weather here is not going to bother her--I'll leave it at that. More of an icon than Lady Gaga, not quite as big a star as Diana Ross, but peer to peer with Janet Jackson.

CP:  And how were you able to secure her?

MS: She's a friend.  You know I travel in certain circles. Sometimes I call her up and I ask her why I'm doing this and she'll talk me off the ledge. I'll say, 'Remind me why I'm doing this?' And she'll say, 'Because you care about people and cats. Because you know you have to give back or else you might lose it all.' 

Mrs. Smith Presents... A Benefit for the Carlyle Foundation Empowerment School for People and Cats with Severe and Persistent Challenges performs at the Southern Theater as part of the Brouhaha Comedy Festival Thursday, January 20 at 6 p.m., Saturday, January 22 at 3 p.m. and Sunday January 23 at 6 p.m. The Southern Theater is located at 1420 Washington Avenue South in Minneapolis. For more info call 612.340.1725.