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‘PostSecret The Show’ converts famously cathartic web site into to intriguing live performance

in Entertainment, Outside the Magic, Theater

What happens on the Internet generally stays online, endlessly shared through hyperlinks and social media posts. But “PostSecret: The Show” aims to change that, bringing a popular web site to life, fueled by actual social interaction.

“PostSecret: The Show” recently debuted at the Booth Theater in Charlotte, North Carolina. It’s a live performance based on the hugely popular site, PostSecret.com, an ongoing community art project started by Frank Warren. People physically mail a secret they have never told anyone to Frank’s house and he collects them to post on his website. It’s been going on since 2005, a massing a Facebook following of more than a million people. There have also been several books published with collections of the post cards mailed in to Frank, as well as exhibits in museums.

Going in to see PostSecret: The Show, I had no idea what to expect. How can someone turn a website into a live show? The lobby of the theater had a table with a mailbox on it and many blank postcards scattered atop the table, with nearby ushers encouraging attendees to write down a secret of their own on, one that they’ve never told before, noting that it might be used in the show. (I did not submit a secret. I honestly couldn’t think of one.)

I like that a show has a level of interactivity with it. There were even post-it notes inside the bathroom to allow for people to share secrets there as well.

About 15 minutes prior to show time, a guitarist takes a seat stage left with a dim spotlight on him – the only musician to support the show. He plays calm acoustic-type fingerpicking music on his electric guitar. A live twitter feed is projected on a suspended screen above center stage, showing live tweets from hashtag #PScharlotte. The show’s actors and stage manager were also tweeting, so it was fun to see their involvement, setting a very personable vibe. The feed even went as far as sending requests of songs for the guitar player to perform.

The show begins with an audio recording from PostSecret creator, Frank Warren, supported by starry night projected visuals. Two actors take the stage portraying characters in a story that Frank tells about a time when he worked for a help hotline, describing an incident when he had a caller who was about to commit suicide. It sets a very serious tone, one that would mix throughout the show with humor and sadness.

After the introduction, three actors introduced themselves – their real names, each sharing a secret of their own. From there, the show used various ways to share secrets submitted to PostSecret, some recited by actors in character voices visually supported by the postcards via the projector. Other times the audience hears recordings of people telling their secrets. Eventually, actors take turns reading secrets submitted by the audience, all a good variety in the deliverance and portrayal of secrets to keep it interesting. I saw no one in the audience flinch, potentially revealing their own anonymously submitted secret.

Topics of secrets vary greatly – religion, drugs, suicide, sex, and sexuality preferences, among some of the heavier topics. It covers a wide spectrum.

During the show, there are a fair amount of secrets shared that PostSecret fans may be familiar with, shared during a TED talk given by Frank. The bulk of the show is pre-scripted, not audience-driven, ensuring powerful secrets being shared in each performance. One postcard features a person admitting the desire to jump off the Golden Gate Bridge. When this postcard was posted on PostSecret.com, Frank received an email from someone who had started a Facebook page titled “Don’t Jump,” which went on to become a big movement that saved many lives. This and many other of the stories of PostSecret: The Show are meant to inspire the audience.

We all have secrets, the show purports, and that it’s alright to have them. Frank’s favorite secret he has received was sent to him on a dollar bill reading, “We are all part of something bigger, and we are all part of it together.” This is the takeaway of the live show. In the end, actors encourage audience members to go to the lobby and take a picture holding a white board with their secret, or a message to that of “hold on” written on it to be used in a later show.

I commend Frank and the writers of PostSecret: The Show for doing something new, bringing this ongoing community art project to a live outlet and bringing awareness to a different audience. The show only left me mildly inspired, leaving the impression of a very well done, elaborate and dramatic PowerPoint presentation or TED talk rather than a performance. Only small bits were acted out with the guitar music fading to the background. Nevertheless, PostSecret: The Show was quite enjoyable and intriguing.

PostSecret: The Show has five more performances in North Carolina, April 29 – May 4. Tickets and more information can be found on the Blumenthal Performing Arts web site.

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