The meaning of secrets

Mar. 15, 2014 @ 10:46 AM

Go and DO

WHAT: “PostSecret Live,” with Frank Warren
WHEN: Monday, 8 p.m.
WHERE: The Carolina Theatre, 309 W. Morgan St., Durham
ADMISSION: Tickets start at $23. To purchase, call 919-560-3030 or visit www.carolinatheatre.org.


So, what secrets do you carry with you? Frank Warren, founder of the blog PostSecret.com, has been collecting secrets for about 10 years from people who send them to him anonymously on post cards. Monday, Warren will invite audience members to share their secrets when he performs “PostSecret Live” at The Carolina Theatre.
PostSecret began in November 2004, when Warren handed out some 3,000 post cards in Washington, D.C., asking people to return them to his address with a secret. Soon, people heard about PostSecret and began making their own post cards and sending them to Warren. In addition to the blog, which Warren says is “the most visited advertisement-free blog in the world,” Warren has published several books (“PostSecret: Extraordinary Confessions from Ordinary Lives,” “PostSecret: Confessions on Life, Death, and God”). He is working on a new book that will be published later this year, and “PostSecret: The Show,” which will premiere in April at the Booth Playhouse in Charlotte.
The live show that Warren will perform Monday is a multi-media event in which he shares some examples of post cards. Monday’s show will have some surprises (“That’s part of the secret,” Warren said). He will share some secrets “that were banned by my publisher,” and he always invites audience members to come up to the microphone and share secrets. “For me, that’s the most enlightening part of the night,” Warren said in a phone interview. “Secrets can be walls when we keep them inside, but when we share them, they become bridges.” The live shows often create a social space where people feel comfortable sharing secrets, he said. 
His collection of secrets runs the full gamut of emotions. Warren recalled a secret that an audience member shared at “PostSecret Live.” The audience member said when he was in the third grade, he walked into his mom’s room and found an empty condom wrapper and yelled at his mom for eating candy in bed. On PostSecret.com, Warren posted this secret: “As a child, I wrote love letters to my parents and signed them ‘Love -----’ the opposite parent. I thought it would stop them from fighting. It didn’t.”
PostSecret has turned his life around, Warren said. Before he began collecting secrets, he was an entrepreneur and had a business that was lucrative “but it was monotonous and lacked meaning.” He had “been haunted by secrets,” and saw PostSecret as a means “to find a deeper meaning in my own life.”
Mail or postal art also was an inspiration. “I think I was inspired by a lot of different factors, including mail art and Davy Rothbart [who started Found Magazine],” who invites people to mail in found objects and “embellishes them with these wonderful stories.” PostSecret cards have been exhibited in museums like the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore and the Museum of Modern Art in New York. “It’s been gratifying for me to see these works of art on view at museums,” Warren said. “It’s exciting for me to see people who don’t see themselves as artists creating what is considered art.”
Warren volunteers for the Hopeline, the suicide prevention help line of the Washington, D.C.-based Kristin Brooks Hope Center. PostSecret is a partner with the organization and raises money for the non-profit foundation’s programs. In his live programs, Warren always tries to make the audience aware of the stigma attached to suicide, how it is in many ways the country’s biggest secret.
He does not see himself as a gatekeeper for secrets: Some secrets are humorous and whimsical, others make people uncomfortable. “In some ways, I think those are the most important ones to convey,” Warren said.