At the popular bimonthly Salon of Shame at Theatre Off Jackson, adults read from their mortifying teen journals.
His name was Kyle, and as a high-school sophomore, Ariel Meadow Stallings was completely infatuated.
After she and Kyle attended the Bainbridge Island High homecoming dance together in 1990, Stallings gushed to her diary about the agony of waiting for photos from the dance and about how her friends asked whether or not they were “like, sort of going out.” (“I said repeatedly, I wish. Oh, how I wish”).
Alas, it was not to be.
“Major realization,” then-15-year-old Stallings wrote several days later. “Kyle did not want a lasting relationship. He wanted to go to Homecoming. …
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“I guess I have trouble understanding the one night stand phenomenon,” she concluded.
Hormone-filled teen musings become more hilarious with age, Stallings realized in 2005 after her friend Sarah Brown established the Cringe show in New York City, an open-mic reading for people to read their old journals, love letters and school papers. With Brown’s permission, Stallings began Salon of Shame, a Cringe-style show for Seattle.
Salon of Shame’s preliminary run-through took place in Stallings’ basement. It helped her figure out what was truly funny (writing from junior and senior high school, the more melodramatic the better) and what wasn’t (writing from the college era or later, plus truly sad or disturbing material.)
“Despite my immediate interest in Cringe, I’d never attended a diary reading show and had no idea how it would work or what kinds of readings would be funny,” Stallings said. “I just wasn’t sure where the line was between entertaining and pathetic/self-indulgent.”
Salon of Shame meets every other month at Theatre Off Jackson, which seats 150. During the past three years, it has developed such a cult following that tickets usually sell out within minutes of becoming available.
“It’s a very participatory audience — an audience that laughs with you instead of at you, or groans in sympathy when you read from love letters addressed ‘Return to Sender’ or poems about your sperm,” said Seattle writer Cienna Madrid, a Salon regular who described herself as “more angry than lovesick on the hormonal spectrum of teenagers.”
There are a few house rules: Readers must have been to the show at least once before, cannot read anyone’s work but their own and are asked to keep their presentations to five minutes or less. In addition to regular readers like Stallings and Madrid, several new people read at every show. Turns out there’s plenty of angst to go around.
Despite pressure to make the popular show monthly, Salon’s organizers have demurred, saying they have day jobs and aren’t professional event producers.
And Kyle? He messaged Stallings on Facebook after seeing a YouTube video she posted of herself reading what she dubbed “The Kyle Situation” at the Salon.
Blythe Lawrence: firstname.lastname@example.org