Greetings from the lobby of the Hyatt Place Hotel in College Station, Texas. I’m Deen and I’m the guitarist for the touring production of PostSecret: The Show — actually, I’m the only musician performing in the show. We are one week into the tour, after having spent two weeks rehearsing and previewing in Charlotte, with performances in Hartford and Schenectady, and we’ll be on the road until early April.
As it has been and so it shall continue to be, there emerges some semblance of organization and structure from within the chaos of a tour such as this. Namely, the predictable monotony of a continental breakfast. Now, this particular hotel in Texas employs the “sink-out-of-bathroom” accommodation, which means that as I write this, I also have show’s director in eyeshot as he brushes his teeth. These are the luxuries of touring, for anyone curious about the lifestyle. It’s not for everyone.
So how did this all come to pass? And what is PostSecret? Well, let me take you back to the very end of 2015. It was a different time — David Bowie was still among the living, Donald Trump was still a considerable joke amongst his political rivals, and I had still never eaten at Whataburger. All of that was about to change.
On December 22, I learned that I’d been chosen to be the musician on the PostSecret tour. The rehearsals began on January 11. With the coming holidays, that didn’t give me much time to prepare for the show. What I knew up to that point was that PostSecret, an online community project sourced from artistic depictions of anonymous secrets, was putting on a show. I then found out that as the guitarist, I’d be the only musician traveling with the show, and I’d be on stage and interacting with the cast.
PostSecret is a show unlike any other that I’ve been a part of. It captures the essence of the blog itself, which is a platform for people to express something they’ve been holding onto inside of themselves —any secret, no matter what it was, as long as it hadn’t been told to anyone and was true. Some of them are tragic, some funny, some humiliating. It runs the gamut of the human condition, and celebrates vulnerability and connection. And most importantly, PostSecret cultivates a community of empathy through anonymity, as each secret reverberates through the cyberspace and thus, the world.
The show is an interactive affair. The actors speak the content of secrets and emails that are sent to the blog and to the website’s creator, Frank Warren. They give a physicality to the spirit of each card. The audience is invited to contribute secrets anonymously in a mailbox in the lobby, which are read aloud in the second act of the show.
It’s been interesting to see how, in the first week of the show, the response to some secrets have varied from audience to audience, along with the feeling in the room as each secret is read aloud. As with the blog, the secrets vary, but the feeling of connection and release is monumental.
To get to sit in a room where someone’s inner, darkest, heaviest secret is read aloud, and they are granted the privilege of acknowledgement without judgement, is a surreal and gratifying experience.
As I mentioned, I’m the only musician, and the entire score is written for solo electric guitar. The cues accompany voiceovers, responses, and stories that people share about the effects of their own secrets being read or acknowledging someone else’s secret. Perhaps the most satisfying element of performing the PostSecret show is feeling the audience reacting to each secret, feeling the room, how the air can change in a split second, and playing directly to that.
Since I am playing solo, I have liberties in my timing, placement, and timbre that I employ for any given section. Here is where subtlety reigns supreme. If I’m playing over a series of postcards dealing with, let’s say romance, based on the nature of the cards, I may choose to bring out certain intervals or rhythmic patterns to accent the sentiment of certain secret. In my mind, the theater is like a racquetball court, with the secrets being one wall, the audience being the opposite, and the two side walls are me and the actors — when we’re all together the emotions bounce from postcard to audience, augmented by actors and music.
No two people are exactly alike. No two secrets are alike, even if they appear similar. Every human is capable of an incomprehensible range of feeling, thought, emotion, and creativity. What that means to me is that two people who could be going through the same exact situation will process things differently, and feel differently. My role in the process is to unearth the core of those feelings and play to that, as a painter might use some type of ‘blue’ or ‘red’ to color an image. Through music, the language of emotion can be emphasized since the musical language isn’t constricted by words. It’s abstract, yes, but I’ve felt this way since I was in the eighth grade, and PostSecret offers a musician like myself to put that way of thinking to use.
A long time ago, I learned not to “judge someone’s insides by their outsides.” In my experience, living the life not just of a musician but of a conscious human being, there are certain principles and truths that exist within the core of every person. Without denomination or opinion or fear of repercussion or reprimand, PostSecret offers an opportunity to share in the experience of what makes us human. An experience that connects us, transcends us, and frees us!
Well, the time has come to say goodbye for now. Between writing and publishing this article, I’ve traveled to a different time zone, set up and soundchecked for a show and eaten a veggie burrito. I’m fairly certain this is what Einstein was thinking about when he wrote his theory of relativity.
PostSecret: The Show is currently on the road! Check and see when they’re coming to your city.