There's a box that generally lives on a shelf in my closet that holds pretty much every single journal, diary, and notebook I've kept since my mom brought me back my first diary (a lavender lock-front Minnie Mouse book with "Journal Intime" embossed in gold block letters) from a trip to France when I was nine years old. I will confess readily that I love to pull that box down and rifle through the pages of my life, sometimes chuckling heartily at my own naivete or hyperbole, sometimes wanting nothing more than to reach out and give my younger self a hug.
Of course, I'm not the only person who kept written records of varying vigilance of my once and former exploits, heartaches, musings, ponderings, and yearnings. In fact, there exists currently a slew of now adult diary-keepers who have mined their own gold and turned it into what makes for an evening of unprecedented laughter and entertainment called Mortified. What could easily pass as embarrassing in any other context comes off live on stage as comic genius. For the brave performers--or rather readers--all it takes is the courage to laugh at their past selves; for the audience it doesn't take much more than a phrase or two of sheer teen angst to get laughing.
Mortified, which bills itself as "a Comic Excavation of Adolescent Writing, Art & Media, PS It totally likes you," is the brainchild of producer Dave Nadelberg, who cemented the concept of having folks read their old journals, love letters, lyrics, or notebooks in front of willing strangers in 2002, after having shared some gems of his own with friends a few years before. Mortified is now operating several "chapters" nationally (Boston, Chicago, LA, NYC, San Francisco) and is seeking to expand to Portland (OR), Austin, and DC. Yes, you heard about them on NPR's This American Life. Yes, those are the real people reading their real diaries. Yes, you can get up there too--they're always looking for new material, so check out their Casting FAQ page.
I hit up the June show a couple of weeks ago, and was treated to seven people's humor and/or heartaches--funny how in retrospect those always seem to go hand in hand. While the content ran the gamut from a tragi-comic first romance to under-appreciated trips abroad to rural Nebraska's unknown rapping genius and more, the core of each piece tended to be the humility and humanity that stem from childhood and adolescent experience as reflected by those who emerged relatively unscathed and much the wiser.