After our first conversation, Frank Warren encouraged me to come out and experience one of his PostSecret Live events and I agreed. So my friend Wendi and I trekked down to the Lisner Auditorium where he was about to speak in front of a sold out crowd.
I walked in and saw him onstage, playing with his MacBook as he tested some videos and slides to be used. At the moment I found him he was playing the Dirty Little Secrets video that features his PostSecret postcards.
I wasn’t the only one there to hang out with him, a camera crew was nearby busy filming his routine, a sign that his fame is growing by leaps, not bounds. Warren’s story is so unique: a man who collects secrets sent to him to share with himself and the world. As they are posted on his PostSecret blog, he becomes not only the most trusted man in America, but perhaps a conduit and sounding board for thousands. He is always willing to listen to anything that anyone would like to share with him.
As other press outlets show up and line up for interviews there’s still a sense of humbleness to the man behind the Germantown-based blog. Before retiring to his dressing room for interviews he walks to the back of the house to personally thank all of the ushers and staff working the event.
The dressing room backstage is a plain white room with leather couches. Frank invites special guests, press, and myself to sitdown with him as he gathers his notes for the presentation. There’s a coffee table in the middle of the room with a copy of the Washington City Paper. It was open to a photo of Frank and a story on tonight’s event opposite an article on former VP candidate Sarah Palin. As I point it out he dismisses it casually, “When I see my photo in the paper I don’t really see me, I see PostSecret.” He’s simply glad to see the project get some publicity and once again displays his humbleness.
After asking for a Coke he proceeds to talk to the various press members that fire off questions and record quotes to use later. A writer asks if he ever felt a burden to be the one that is sent so much personal information and thoughts. He jokes that while he doesn’t see it as a burden,”I have been having some recent back pain- maybe it’s from carrying all these secrets for so long.”
More questions probe into the secrets themselves, “Do you ever think some of the secrets are made-up? That people are making up secrets in hopes of making the blog?,” one reporter asks. To respond to that question he pulls out a small gray box and opens it. Inside are various e-mails and postcards. He pulls out an e-mail and reads it to the crowd, “Dear Frank, I sent you a secret awhile ago but I wanted to tell you that it’s no longer true.” For Frank the act of sharing secrets with him is just as important, if not more, as the secret itself.
“The act of sharing is one step in a personal story or journey.” He hopes that even just the act of sharing a secret with someone else is therapeutic and one step closer to helping one face one’s true fears.
Meanwhile the lobby fills with GW students and fans from far and wide that wait for the doors to open. At the head of the line are Carla and Katie, two students from the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore. Not only are they fans of the website and art exhibits, the two trekked down the Beltway in hopes of meeting Frank to deliver him postcards of secrets they had designed and had tucked away in their bags.
Daria, a GW sophomore, traveled a bit further to see Frank. A native of Trinidad, she was a fan of the site back home before coming to the US to study at George Washington. Going to college in DC brought her that much closer to her favorite blog, “I’m a nerd for PostSecret… as soon as I knew I was going to GW, I wanted to meet Frank and maybe intern for him,” she said.
The house opens, the auditorium quickly fills up, and Frank walks out to the cheers of hundreds of adoring fans. His talk explores the PostSecret project further, with videos and postcards that weren’t allowed to be published, what Frank calls “the secret Secrets.” Along with the visuals, Frank offers his own personal thoughts and insights on the impact of his project and what he’s learned about humanity and the idea of sharing one’s intimate details.
At the end of the show he shares with the audience a personal secret of his own, but there is one secret that is left to be discovered after the show is over. Before the show Frank took 200 actual postcards sent to PostSecret and inserted them into the PostSecret books that were for sale in the lobby. As fans pick up copies to have autographed at a post show signing, a surprise awaits them between the pages of secrets.
Kristen Adams and Lisa Lustig from Fairfax, VA are two George Mason alumni who decided on attending to the show after hearing about it days before. They were lucky to grab tickets before it completely sold out. After getting their books signed they thumbed through the newly purchased items and ran across the postcard. At first they take it for as a promotional item. “I thought the secret was fake, but when I took it out, I realized it was a real secret. I feel special that I’m not entrusted with someone’s secret!” remarked the surprised Lustig.
Tamara and Rebeka, two GW freshmen were so excited to find an actual PostSecret postcard that they are reconsidering the purpose of their recent purchases- as gifts for family members. Rebeka explained, “This was going to be a gift for my sister but now that I have a real PostSecret secret- it’s mine now!”