The idea of turning a website into a full-length show may not be the most unusual idea for a theatrical production, but it definitely helps to base it on a site like the uber-popular PostSecret.com.
Launched in 2005, PostSecret has now received over a million anonymous secrets from around the world, ranging from the hilarious to the devastating, on everything from traditional postcards to a pair of flip-flops, and even a banana (both of which make appearances in the stage show, albeit as photographs).
Working with PostSecret creator Frank Warren over the last few years, creators TJ Dawe, Kahlil Ashanti and Justin Sudds have created a show that not only highlights many of the secrets received over the years, it also offers up some of the stories behind and around them, culled from the website’s forums.
It is the addition of these back-stories that make PostSecret: The Show more than simply a “best of” retrospective, although there is a necessary leap-of-faith for the audience to believe that the back-stories that appear in the show weren’t merely chosen by what might have been available to the creative team; there may be a million secrets, but there will be far fewer compelling stories behind them.
The three performers, Kahlil Ashanti, Ming Hudson and Nicolle Nattrass do a decent job presenting the material, most often reading the secrets projected on the screen behind them, sometimes augmented by animations from Egg Studios, Jeremy Stewart, The Glossary and Dana Goldman. At one point the trio reveal their own secrets, in what is one of the most genuine and open-hearted parts of the evening. In a nice addition, the trio is accompanied on stage with live music by Mario Vaira.
After a while though the premise does get repetitive, and as my companion at this preview pointed out, it also felt a bit like a marketing exercise for the PostSecret website. We are also forced to digest the secrets at a pace set by the actors, where reading the secrets on the PostSecret website allows for more reflection. Disappointingly, despite stating at the top of act two that the second half would be about the gathered audience’s secrets which were collected before the show and at intermission, this section turns out to be only a few minutes, and it is not long before we are back to the secrets of others.
But what does make PostSecret: The Show work is in the communal nature of a show that is strangely uplifting, where as a group we bear witness to both the collective and individual responses to the secrets and stories presented. One can’t help but leave feeling some hope for humanity when we can laugh at the fart secrets but, more importantly, we can also find a common emotional response to the more profound.
PostSecret: The Show created by Frank Warren, TJ Dawe, Kahlil Ashanti and Justin Sudds. Directed by TJ Dawe. On stage at the Firehall Arts Centre through February 7. Visit https://firehallartscentre.ca for tickets and information.