Mortified

The Uptown, Oakland
As seen on September 20th

(A continuation of the story recounted in my Letter From The Editor)

The three hour drive draws us ever-closer to San Francisco, and I become increasingly certain that is our destination. At the junction of the 880, however, we veer left. Oakland? I mean, yay, Oakland! (Oakland?)

We’ve settled into the apartment we’ll be staying at this weekend. Six girls wedge ourselves into the bathroom, a tangle of curling irons and spindly arms, clouds of face powder and hairspray. We make our way to dinner, drink wine, eat bone marrow (which is far more like fatty beef jell-o than I’d anticipated) on toast points, have “cheeseless” macaroni and cheese (made from butternut squash and so much cream it might as well just be cheese). I still have no idea where we’re going, only that it’s about eight blocks away. Despite our high heeled shoes and poor collective ability to read maps, we decide to walk (possibly because of the wine).

We eventually arrive at the Uptown nightclub on Telegraph Ave, across from the Fox Theater. “Oh, we’re seeing Mortified! I’ve heard of this!” Just a week or two back, after seeing the show in Austin, a good friend of mine posted pictures of herself sorting through old journals to contribute her most embarrassing entries. That’s the premise: people sharing journal entries or poems or letters, things created during that most mortifying age when we were all trying so. effing. hard. to be cool and effortless.

Opening the show is a silver fox (a guy, not an actual fox) named Dave Nadelberg (a very nice guy who we harass shamelessly afterward). He’s the creator of the project, and he graciously offers his own self-immolation to set the tone: a tragically unsent letter meant to secure the object of his youthful affections; a grandiose resumé about why she should choose him. It’s incredibly funny and endearing, because it’s all of us. Everyone had that ridiculous crush on a person they didn’t even know, everyone had that overly dramatic letter-writing phase. Or maybe kids of the digital age don’t do that anymore? Did the ten page angsty diatribe go out with texting? God, I hope not.

It’s hard to pick a favorite of the many readings, each one is excruciatingly hilarious. There’s the metal-chick love rollercoaster, the pubescent, gay Mormon, the tale of the missing tampon, talking vagina poetry… And frankly, I can’t do any of them justice through description. What makes Mortified work is not just the specific story arcs, it’s the natural cadence of teenage drama—over inflated expectations and the quick rebound from despair to rage to the same inflated expectations—unfolding in big leaps of time. It’s the naked honesty and intensity of the people laying themselves open to our generous ridicule. It’s the rawness of the experience, the fact that turning into an adult is so gloriously awkward.

Which is good, because if you went to the next show (at the DNA Lounge in SF on Oct. 10th, or at the Uptown in Oakland on Oct.11th), you wouldn’t see the same lineup. The live show operates in chapters in cities all over the country, cycling performances monthly or seasonally with different people participating each time. You can also watch the documentary, Mortified Nation, on Netflix, and if you think you have the right stuff, you can participate—visit getmortified.com for all the information.

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Managing Editor for Synthesis Weekly. Amy likes to make clothes, plant flowers, and chase butterflies.