Dr. Tyler August Smith is a preeminent theater historian and screenwriter most famous for his research into 19th-century burlesque. He is currently a professor of theater history at Illinois State University in Normal, Illinois. Smith is partially named after his paternal grandfather, Ralph Tyler Smith, a former United States Senator from Illinois.
Smith was born and raised in Indiana but moved to California at 21 to pursue a career in entertainment. He achieved some success in the early 1980s as an effects designer on horror films such as Greek Maggot Bingo, Deathmask , Tales from the Darkside, Scared Stiff , and Monsters. Smith also worked on mainstream films Sid and Nancy and School Daze before leaving Hollywood in 1988 to return to the Midwest to pursue his Masters degree in theater history at Miami (Ohio) University where he received the prestigious ODCMP award. Upon graduation Tyler completed his PhD at the University of Illinois.
Smith's subsequent immersion into the history of burlesque led him to a chance encounter with actor and director Mel Gibson. The two became friends, leading to Smith's involvement on Gibson's 1996 film Ransom - Smith's first venture into Hollywood in nearly eight years. Smith has not worked in Hollywood since, but is the author of a screenplay entitled "Soiled Doves," which has been purchased by Gibson's Icon Production Company and is scheduled for production in 2009. The film is based upon the true story of "Little Man Adam," a dwarf who emceed burlesque shows in Chicago in the 1880s.