Smile Politely

Pygmalion gets Mortified

Mortified is a stage show where people read stuff they wrote as teens and tweens. Not the good stuff (if there was any): the other stuff. Diary entries. Unfortunate attempts at poetry and song lyrics. Notes. Remember that old notebook you have in the back of your closet? Mortified does too, and now they’re here to help you laugh at it. Here, we talk to producer Shay DeGrandis about their upcoming show at the Pygmalion Festival’s Lit component.

SmilePolitely: Can you tell us a little about the presenters for this show?

DeGrandis: We have four readers for the upcoming Pygmalion show:

Brooke Allen will be reading from her journal, chronicling her aspirations to be a great writer, and, hopefully, an inspiration to others (just like Anne Frank). Her reading will be ripe with grand, pretentious metaphors. She is now, in fact, a playwright.

Dan Sheehan will be sharing portions of the science fiction novel he wrote as well as his one-man movie filmed in the basement of his parents’ home. He not only plays all of the characters, but also takes every credit at the end of the film. His cat does have a bit part as well but not to worry, there was a stunt double. He is now a stand-up comedian (although not a falconer like he had originally planned).

Jill Howe will be entertaining us with her ukulele, singing a book report she wrote for her English class on The Crucible, set to an Alanis Morrissette tune. This was done in order to impress the boy who sat in front of her in class. You’ll have to hear the piece to learn how this strategy worked out for her. She is actually now an English teacher at a high school.

Tyler Snodgrass, born Southern Baptist, will be regaling us on electric guitar with his own versions of heavy metal songs, all re-written in service to the Lord. There will be some audience participation expected for this one. He is now a stand-up comedian but mostly in service to himself and his audience.

SP: What’s one of your favorite moments from a past live show?

DeGrandis: There are SO many!

The moment when a girl gets out on a dance floor and suddenly finds herself “grinding” with a boy, although she wasn’t exactly sure that’s what was happening. She did know that she didn’t like her face to be that close to his, however.

All the times one girl notes exactly what time things happened: 10:26 p.m. he asked me to be his girlfriend; 6-6:45 p.m. made out on mom’s bed. It’s rare we get those kinds of details.

A note written to an English teacher in a guy’s class journal wondering where she was that day, mentioning that it couldn’t be that she was having sex, she was too old for that (to which she replied “BOO”).

A woman who curses up a storm in her journal. The hilarity comes from hearing the angriest, most scornful rants spewing out of such a sweet person. Obviously I can’t give you any highlights since none of it is suitable for print…(ed — clearly she has never read anything at SP)

SP: We took these works SO seriously when we were writing them. Why do you think it feels so much better to laugh at them, now that we’re supposedly serious adults?

DeGrandis: The laughter comes from the fact that we did take these relationships, ideas, causes, dreams, and discoveries SO seriously when we were writing them. We took OURSELVES so seriously back then. When writing down an experience or a feeling, every teenager at some point believes that he or she is the ONLY one who has ever felt this particular way, that no one else in history has ever experienced what they are experiencing at that very moment. Almost everything written when you were young becomes hyperbolic — it is the MOST, the BEST, the WORST, the FIRST. When you allow yourself to be vulnerable, give yourself the opportunity to laugh at your story, and share yourself on stage with a group of total strangers, you can find common ground with others, which is a really powerful thing.

As you get older and have more experiences in your life, you learn that although the first time for something is an amazing moment in time, it’s not the be-all, end-all that we made it out to be when it happened. You survived the heartbreak. You made it through the anger or hurt or criticism or even extreme confidence or exuberance. You didn’t cling to being made fun of, not having a prom date, being the best in your class, being madly in love with your band teacher FOREVER. You no longer hold a grudge against your parents, your teachers, your friends, God, or even your enemies. Things that seemed so incredibly important to you at the time don’t carry nearly the same weight as they once did. It is cathartic to revisit and laugh at these stories, experiences, creative endeavors, and relationships that made you who you are today.


Catch Mortified at 6 p.m. at the Art Theater on Saturday, September 26th as part of the Pygmalion LitFest. The FULL festival pass* will get you in, or purchase a single ticket for $15. For a different way to get Mortified, check out their podcast.

*Seriously, the music-only or tech-only wristbands will not get you in. You need to buy a ticket.

(all editorial remarks by Rebecca Knaur, unbeknownst to Rochelle Smith)

Photographs courtesy of Jill Howe Photography.

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