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PostSecret: The Show Goes From Silly to Salacious


Storytelling is having a moment in the sun. From national programs like The Moth to local ones like Ex Fabula, telling our stories out loud in front of an audience seems to something we want to engage in and listen to. PostSecret:The Show is a bit different.

The show has been in the making for five years and is based on the PostSecret project. Frank Warren started the project a decade ago, where people mail in their secrets anonymously on one side of a postcard. Warren started the project out of curiosity, and it caught on quickly.

"When they started arriving, I would scan the postcards and the secrets and the artwork and post it on the web," Warren says. "That first Sunday I had maybe 100 visitors, the next Sunday to I had 1000 and the Sunday after that I had 100,000. The idea spread virally around the world... [Postcards] started arriving with postmarks from California, Texas and Wisconsin, and Hong Kong and Sydney and Dublin."

While Warren may not have known what to expect in the first few years of the project, he now has an understanding of its appeal. "I do think there's something significant about finding your own secret, taking ownership of it, putting it on this postcard and then physically letting it go to a stranger," he says.

Warren remembers one postcard he received; on it was written: "I worked all my life to get into Harvard, and now that I'm here, I hate it." The card was posted online, but soon afterwards he received an email from the writer asking him to take it down. She said her family had identified her as the author of that postcard through her handwriting. Warren immediately took down the card but wrote the woman saying that it may have been good for her family to see.

"Its much more comfortable to keep our secrets inside and not mention them," he says. "It leads to a peacefulness perhaps. But maybe that's a false peacefulness. Maybe in the long run the healthiest thing we can do is out those parts of our life that are uncomfortable and might lead to difficult conversations, but, ultimately, take us to where we want to be."

When it comes to the live show, Warren says, the secrets are probably to life. "The actors bring to life the secrets that have never been seen before, the stories behind them, secrets that have changed lives, brought people together. The actors themselves tell a real secret from their own life. Its kind of experimental. We invite audience members to write their secrets on postcards, and some of them are read back by the actors in the second act."

*This interview originally aired on February 25th, 2016

PostSecret: The Show will be performed in Milwaukee Thursday, March 1st at the Wilson theatre at the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts' Vogel Hall.

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Bonnie North
Bonnie joined WUWM in March 2006 as the Arts Producer of the locally produced weekday magazine program Lake Effect.
Maayan Silver has been a reporter with WUWM’s News Team since 2018. She joined WUWM as a volunteer at Lake Effect in 2016, while she was a practicing criminal defense attorney.