Many years ago, a Pacific Northwest family sat down to enjoy Thanksgiving dinner, leaving the half-carved turkey resting on a counter in the kitchen. Moments after the sweet potatoes were passed, there was a violent crash in the kitchen. The family’s Doberman suddenly rushed into the dining room carrying the turkey carcass, darted under the dining table, and was noisily sick on the carpet.
As the host wrestled the avian skeleton from the dog’s jaws, the hostess became entangled with her guests’ legs, scrubbing desperately at the carpet. The guests stoically chewed their now unappetizing turkey, willing themselves to ignore what was happening. The incident was never spoken of again — vigorously never spoken of. This sort of holiday horror story might never become public knowledge, unless you submit it to Seattle Confidential.
Combining the anonymity of Post Secret with the unrestrained (and often self-directed) schadenfreude of Salon of Shame, Seattle Confidential will present the latest in an ongoing series of secrets exposed and re-enacted onstage for all to see. The show is created and hosted by Ian Bell, whose Brown Derby Series at the Re-bar has been staging notorious — and often notoriously bad — screenplays as live theatrical events for over 12 years. Seattle Confidential was launched early this year through ACT’s Central Heating Lab new works development program.
Bell assigns a theme every three months, then scavenges Seattle’s secrets from unsigned website submissions, as well as drop boxes strategically placed in what one must assume are Seattle’s most shame-filled neighborhoods — namely, the U-District, Belltown, Capitol Hill, Georgetown, and the downtown corridor. Told in the form of laconic one-sentence confessions, soul-baring personal essays, or even poems, the secrets are culled and arranged for the stage by Bell. Local actors then perform them as theatrical scenes.
Bell got the idea for this quarterly experiment in communal yet anonymous self-revelation following an extended road trip through Northern California, during which he gabbed freely with the nameless strangers he encountered. Seattle Confidential’s inaugural theme, “Virginity Lost,” set the voyeuristic tone for the series, with “The Perfect Crime” and “Adventures Abroad” following. For the final show of 2011, Bell has called on Seattle to submit its most deliciously deviant “Holiday Horror Stories.” The theme is equal opportunity, embracing embarrassment arising from Thanksgiving, Christmas, Kwanzaa, Ramadan, and Passover. Actors Emily Chisholm, Karen Gruber, and Evan Mosher will re-enact the dramas, disasters, and dirty deeds on stage.
Since those who submit a secret worth staging receive a free ticket to the show, you can’t be sure whether you will emerge from the theater knowing a little bit too much about the person you were seated next to. Playing with the catharsis of public confession can be a dangerous game.
If you go: The next installment of Seattle Confidential will take place on Nov. 14 at 7:30 p.m. in ACT’s Bullitt Cabaret space. $10-$15. For tickets, visit www.seattleconfidential.org.