Founded in 2002, Mortified is a “storytelling project” with chapters throughout the country and in Europe. It has become a popular multimedia property, spawning a weekly podcast, two books, a TV series and more. And on June 20, Mortified will have its East End debut at Parrish Art Museum, performed by the NYC chapter.
But what exactly is Mortified? “It can be a hard show to describe to people,” says co-producer Christina Galante. “It’s adults reading their adolescent writings or presenting artifacts from youth in front of complete strangers. It gets warm and fuzzy.” Acknowledging that reading personal material from childhood can be uncomfortable for some, co-producer John Dorcic observes, “People have to have some distance for this to work. With much younger people, it doesn’t always work. But if you have the emotional disconnect between the [childhood] and the person who’s talking onstage, you can laugh at it.”
The show’s popularity exploded after the release of the Mortified Nation documentary in 2013, allowing for Mortified NYC to perform regularly scheduled shows. “It’s a labor of love that we do in our spare time,” says Galante, who first got involved with Mortified when she lived in Los Angeles. “We used to have it at a smaller space, where we’d get like 75 people. Now we’re mostly doing shows for more than 300.” Mortified NYC is housed at the Littlefield warehouse-style performance space in Brooklyn. So how does the show stay fresh? “We try to meet people every month,” says Galante. “Interested people submit through our website and it gets forwarded to whatever city they’re based in. We then set up meetings and ask them to bring whatever they have, and they read to us what they brought and at that point we’re looking for what we can turn into a 10-minute piece. Maybe they have five journals, and they’re all about one thing. We listen for what keeps coming up.”
While the show is designed to be uproariously funny, Dorcic and Galante thinks audiences respond to it for several reasons. “We rarely get anything that’s really dramatic. It’s not always particularly light, but it’s always handled in a humorous way.”
Dorcic, who also runs the Bare Bones Theater Company in Northport, admires the unique warmth brought to each performance. “There can be an audience for irreverent and touching work that doesn’t have to be children’s theater or musicals. It’s so positive.” Dorcic’s directing background lends itself well to staging segments, as well. “John’s experience with theater…he does story producing, direction backstage and gives everybody a talk before the show. We don’t want them to ‘act out’ their readings.”
While Galante and Dorcic want the show to be fresh and surprising for the Parrish audience, they’re more than happy to share some past stories. “This woman wrote a TV show, a western, when she was 11. It was a sex scene where a girl offers a cowboy coffee and he says, ‘real men drink gin!’ and pulls it out of his pants!” says Dorcic. Adds Galante, “The first piece I ever worked on was about someone’s crush on William Kennedy Smith when he was going through [a 1991 rape trial]. It was funny and ridiculous—she was mortified that she’d had a crush on him!”
Dorcic sighs. “I had a crush on the Ghost of Christmas Present from the Mr. Magoo Christmas Special.”
Mortified will perform at the Parrish Art Museum, 279 Montauk Highway, Water Mill, on Saturday June 20. For tickets and more info, call 631-283-2118 and go to parrishart.org. If you’re interested in performing in a future Mortified show, go to getmortified.com/participate.