Behind the Scenes with Postsecret: The Show’s Inspiration, Frank Warren

This past September, Frank Warren came to the Long Center and explained the magic of the Postsecret Project (for those unfamiliar, read his guest blog entry here). But the magic didn’t stop there. With the bravery of the Broadway musical RENT, and the honesty of envelope-pushing The Vagina Monologues; Postsecret: The Show is the perfect combination of everything we love about Postsecret.

BroadwayWorld sat down with Frank Warren himself during the show’s initial inception. In the interview Frank talks of audience sourced storytelling that “reaches beyond the confines of the stage,  reminding audiences that no matter what you may be facing, you are not alone.”

Linda Ann Wyatt of BroadwayWorld: How did you think of the idea of PostSecrets?

Frank Warren: It was 10 years ago, and I don’t really know why, but I thought of it as an art experiment. I wrote out 3,000 self-addressed postcards and handed them out to strangers on the streets of Washington. I started getting them back in the mail at my home. Then I started receiving postcards from London, Croatia and Bismarck. It kept growing.

LAW: Were you doing this as a school project or something?

FW: No, I was a small business owner for 20 years. I was a husband and father… Maybe I thought of this because my job was boring….. Secrets caught fire. I look back, as a child and I remember we had family secrets. Maybe this was a way for me to come to terms with those secrets reconnecting with secrets of myself and looking for the perfect secret.

LAW: Where did you go from there?

FW: I started the Website PostSecrets and it went viral. Millions of people were contacting me. It found its audience and 5 books were written. Last year, the fifth book was number one on the Times Best Seller list. It hasn’t lost its appeal. A sixth book is coming out this year.

LAW: Does it upset you to read some of the secrets?

FW: People send the postcards. I am not judgmental. Through our Website, we have a team that helps with suicide prevention. There is a higher purpose.

LAW: How did you secure qualified people for your suicide prevention team?

FW: We have a million people on our Website. When I post something, people reach out, if they can help.

LAW: Again, I don’t want to belabor this, but have you ever gotten a post card where a person told a secret that was upsetting, an example maybe of murdering someone?

FW: Yes, I got a secret from someone who wrote, “My girlfriend dumped me so I dumped her body.” There was a geomap attached with an unidentifiable patch on the Web. Within an hour of posting it, people identified it to a place in Chicago, behind a golf course. The police contacted us. There was nothing found. Yes, some secrets are heavy. I have been contacted by the FBI. Sometimes though, secrets can also be hidden acts of kindness.

LAW: When did you decide to make the postcards into a show?

FW: PostSecrets has had a life of its own. Writers contacted me to write a show.

LAW: What can audiences expect?

FW: The show is compelling. Deep true stories that people haven’t told their families, priests or therapists. They will see it as a snapshot of people’s lives strung together with animated stories.

LAW: What type of animation?

FW: We have three different animation companies with different techniques.

LAW: How long did it take to launch the Website?

FW: Since its inception, it has taken 10 years. I have a half-million postcards in my basement. The pile is taller than I am.

LAW: Do you think this would have been as successful if you launched it 20 or 30 years ago, or do you think its time is now?

FW: Its time is now,… the analog and digital world connect. Zero transaction cost. This is a new conversation for sharing and reaching.

LAW: What is your background?

FW: Before being in business, my background included suicide prevention counseling.

LAW: What was the most memorable secret postcard you ever received?

FW: Postcards from young people; secrets that no young person should have to carry. I think the one that stands out the most was a post card with an arm drawn and then a magazine picture of an arm cut out, pasted on the postcard with the caption, “When I hear my friends at school, who have moms, complain about this and that their mom said, I would give my right arm to have a mom.”

LAW: In POSTSECRETS THE SHOW what will the audience take away?

FW: There are two kinds of secrets, the ones we keep from ourselves and the ones that show us, we are not alone.

Postsecret: The Show makes its Austin debut March 22-27 in the Rollins Studio Theatre. Tickets are still available and can be purchased here.

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