The Story of PostSecret: The Show

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Frank Warren is a member of the Active Minds Speakers Bureau and creator of Post Secret, an ongoing community art project where people mail in their secrets anonymously on one side of a postcard. Learn more about PostSecret: The Show or bring PostSecretU to your campus.

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When I started PostSecret, I never knew how truly special the secrets I pulled from my mailbox would be or where the postcards would take me.

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Joyful secrets, hilarious secrets, romantic, painful, transformative secrets, but what I didn’t see coming were the compassionate responses from strangers. It was exciting for me to curate PostSecret.com and the PostSecret books, but you turned the project into a conversation, you made a community.  I began seeing the compassion and connection that surrounds us all the time but goes unseen.  These were the stories behind the secrets.

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PostSecret: The Show is a five-year labor of love to tell those stories.  TJ Dawe, Kahlil Ashanti, Justin Sudds and myself first sat down at my dinning room table in 2010 selecting some of the never before seen secrets that would be the bones of the play.

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Now that the stage play has gone through dozens of refinements and years of workshops we are just kicked off its 23–city tour, this is how we describe the production for the media:

PostSecret: The Show is an immersive, poignant journey through the humor and humanity of the PostSecret project.  Projected images, videos, three actors and a guitarist guide the audience through crowd-sourced narratives revealing the true stories behind the secrets.  See the hopeful, shocking and revealing secrets that brought hundreds of millions of people to PostSecret.com, became six best-selling books and are currently in a Smithsonian Art exhibition.

With the bravery of Rent and the surprising honesty of The Vagina Monologues, PostSecret: The Show is a breakthrough in audience-sourced storytelling that reaches beyond the confines of the stage, reminding audiences that secrets can be both walls and bridges.

Personally, I like to say that PostSecret: The Show is a love-letter to the PostSecret community.

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At the beginning of the show, each actor tells one of their own secrets.  Then the transformative stories behind the secrets are brought to life on stage.

There is a scene about my most unforgettable call when I was a suicide hotline volunteer. There’s a chance for audience members to write their own secrets on postcards anonymously and have them shared back by the actors and many other surprises.

We share some of the secret (lies) that parents tell their children like; “My dad used to tell me that there were toys under the front yard, and if I picked enough weeds eventually a toy would pop out for me”, or “My dad told me that the same way that Santa Claus comes down the chimney for Christmas, the Easter Bunny comes up out of the toilet for Easter.”

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We share the story of Tina who courageously shared her secret about an eating disorder in the most heroic way.  And we tell how tens of thousands of people were inspired by a single postcard to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for suicide prevention and spearhead, “Please Don’t Jump Day” in San Francisco.

PostSecret: The Show is truly a celebration of secrets and at the end audience members get a chance to share back their thoughts and feelings to those who found the strength and vulnerability to tell their story.

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