When you were a teenager, a journal was your best friend and confidante. You told it all your secrets, as well as plenty of banal details about your day. You shared your dreams -- and sometimes even imagined that your words would one day be immortalized, read around the world.
Some journals were hardcovers that locked with a key, others a spiral notebook, still others a marble copybook covered in stickers. No matter what form that journal took, though, when you flip through it today, you realize that those insights that were so important when you were a teenager now seem trivial and silly. Still, it's not too late to share those dreams: Megan Nyce has created an opportunity for former teens to memorialize their mundane musings at My Teenage Angst.
Every other month, Nyce hosts a live reading where adults listen to peers read from journals, yearbooks, diaries and notes passed under teachers' noses. "A lot of people say they have journals but they are too boring to read aloud," says Nyce. "But they are usually the best ones because teenagers write about every little detail in their lives. It's boring in a way, but that stuff is so entertaining."
In fact, most of the stories are hilarious -- even if they weren't meant to be originally. At My Teenage Angst, Nyce welcomes all kinds of writing, from the intense emotions of a first love to the trivial results of a teenager's history final. "That's high school, man," she says. "High school is all those things."
But readers have to be ready for unexpected reactions to their words. And so Nyce encourages them to have a thick skin and a sense of humor. The audience "may crack up about something really serious to you, and if you aren't okay with that, you shouldn't read," she says.Nyce's only rule is that readers shouldn't share intimate details about really traumatic events, such as rape or molestation. She doesn't want to dismiss those incidents, she says, but they can be too traumatizing to share in such a venue. This is a show, after all: "I know those things happen, but I think that would open up a wound for someone that might really bleed. It's not therapy."
When she was living in Seattle several years ago, Nyce heard about the national touring show Mortified, in which adults share embarrassing slices of their young lives; when she moved to Denver, she decided to create her own version. Three years ago, My Teenage Angst debuted in the now-closed The Bar on South Broadway.
Initially, Nyce tried to keep a creative hold on the content -- but it was stressful to make sure everything presented was funny and well-delivered. While performances like Mortified hold auditions and train the readers, Nyce works and has a daughter in elementary school; she didn't want the show to run her life.
"I would get worked up about the show and wake up thinking, 'Oh my gosh, I hope it will be entertaining and enough people will show up.' I would worry about disappointing people, which is what I did in high school, of course," she remembers.
But then she let it go, and stopped trying to control the readers.
Now people don't have to submit their pieces before reading on stage, or even sign up- -- they can just arrive that evening ready to read. Sometimes, Nyce will have just three readers and fifteen people in the audience; other times the performance will last over an hour and the room will be so packed that people are sitting cross-legged on the floor, as happened at the August show.
Nyce usually starts the show by reading from her journals, and explaining some of the entries to the audience. There's a kiss list with symbols for how far she went with each guy (a star means sex and a heart means love); all the lyrics (even the rare ones) to the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air by DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince; poetry; an entry recalling the time she gave a potential suitor the dial-a-prayer number instead of her own; and a list of her periods.
It's sometimes difficult read her entries, she admits. She once shared a story about an ex-boyfriend that made her pause on stage. "As I was reading it, I realized what a difficult girlfriend I was. I wanted to write an apology even though it was twenty years later," she says. "It wasn't funny. It made me remember that I can't change people."
Some people get the humor of looking back at their hormone-crazed selves, but others don't. One girl burned all her journals after reading an entry at an early show. "Not everyone gets it," Nyce admits. "But some people do, and when you come across people who get it, it's really fun. My Teenage Angst is a room full of people that get it. You wrote it down for a reason."
The next edition of My Teenage Angst is at 8 p.m. Thursday, October 23 at Deer Pile. There will be another show there on Friday, December 19; starting in February the shows will take place on the fourth Thursday of every other month. Admission is free; there's always a selection of canned beers available for a small donation.
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