Originally published on The Locals (www.thelocals.ie) on the 25th September 2014
The discovery of an unsent teenage love letter led to Mortified co-founders David Nadelberg and Neil Katcher sending an email asking people if they knew anyone who wanted to share their childhood writings on stage. The email went viral and Mortified was born.
Over a decade later, an embarrassing letter that spawned a movement from LA to Amsterdam, Mortified has grown to include the Mortified Live show, with chapters across the US and springing up over Europe, a weekly podcast, documentary, books and TV series.
With a Dublin show in the works, The Locals were interested in how an American phenomenon would transfer to Irish audiences. Considering the Irish tradition of storytelling and wry humour, we could see the appeal. But Ireland is small. How would Irish participants feel about reading out loud to a room full of acquaintances, not complete strangers?
Claire Byrne, met with two of the Mortified Dublin Producers, Ruth McCormack and Rebecca Gimblett, to hear more about the Mortified phenomenon and what goes on behind the scenes.
The Locals (TL): What’s Mortified all about?
Ruth: It’s a stage show where people read from their childhood diaries, letters, embarrassing lyrics, short stories, poetry etc. It’s hilarious but also cathartic for the person performing. I’ve left shows crying my eyes out.
TL: How did you get involved as a producer?
Ruth: When I was living in LA, I worked in the same office as Neil and Dave (founders of Mortified) and we became friends. I was asked to help out at the box office one night and was blown away by it. When I moved back to Ireland, Neil asked me if I’d be interested in setting up a Mortified Dublin. He came over for a week, we did a lot of training and started auditioning people for producers of the show. We now have a great mix of producers and all bring something different.
Rebecca: Ruth mentioned that a Dublin show was happening and asked if I’d like to be involved. I’ve journaled, I’m a writer and I’ve been doing poetry for years so it was a natural fit.
TL: What are you looking for when reading submissions?
Ruth: The main thing is if we all laugh at something then that’s gold and it’s in. A lot of the time we would see something as funny and the person reading their diary wouldn’t think it’s funny at all.
Rebecca: Often they choose what they think is funny and what we want to hear. When we just want to hear the everyday things that are embarrassing.
TL: What goes on behind the scenes to make a show like this happen?
Ruth: We ask people to submit their details, I look through it and then get in touch to arrange a meeting, asking them to bring more content. We organise some sessions between participants and producers, as an opportunity for them to read aloud.
It’s mainly about picking out what’s good, how they can provide the backstory and how they can perform it live. After that we assign them a producer to help them prepare and work on their material.
TL: Why do you think Mortified is so popular?
Ruth: It’s relatable. People get on stage and share these humiliating experiences. There’s something wildly exciting about reading on stage and that’s what people go for – the taboo of reading diaries.
Rebecca: Irish people have a really specific sense of humour, we’re great at taking the mick out of each other and love laughing at ourselves.
TL: Why do you do what you do?
Ruth: There’s something so endearing about hearing someone else’s childhood memories. It brings people together and makes them realise they’re not alone in their mortification! It’s also amazing getting to know the participants, both their present selves and diary selves.
Interested in Sharing the Shame? Sign up for the Dublin Mortified here
The Dublin Mortified show will take place on a date in late November or December TBC. We’ll update this article when we know or keep an eye on the Mortified listings page here