'Mortified' at The Ritz

Gathering together to share personal shame and humilation—on stage
Garry Davis, a 'Mortified' participant, remembers growing up gay in a Christian home. Photo by Allana Tarantos

When asked about the most embarrassing story from his formative years, Scott Lifton is almost too eager to recount the incident. Then again, when you consider Lifton has built his career around the telling of the tale—perfecting his cadence, plotting out pregnant pauses and honing his punchlines—it makes sense.

The story is actually two stories, both of which involve Lifton's early struggles with wooing women. In the first story, a teenaged Lifton decides that before asking out the girl of his dreams, he ought to first get his creep on and take pictures of her in the hallway; in the second, he ends up dating the very first girl that showed him any attention only to quickly realize he doesn't really like her. "In a two-month period, I turn into a total ass," he says. "I break up with her."

Lifton is a Bay Area producer for Mortified , which encourages people to get up on stage and relive the most shameful chapters of their lives. Lifton and the team at Mortified have made built a successful stage show around convincing the average and unfamous to confront the most vulnerable and humiliating experiences from their formative years—pimples, periods, porn and all—in front of an audience.

Mortified was conceived of over a decade ago in Los Angeles, when one of the show's founders was sorting through a box of old keepsakes and saw both the comedic and tragic potential for sharing the stories behind his personal ephemera.

Being on the Mortified stage is definitely not for everyone. According to Lifton, even the most eager exhibitionist should brace for an emotional exorcism. The stories aren't simply taken wholesale from hand-scrawled high school diaries. Instead they are molded into fully fledged performances. With the help of Mortified producers, applicants take their source materials—journals, drawings and recordings—and help turn cringeworthy adolescent ramblings into punchy, insightful reflection.

Though junior high and high school can provide highly regimented social structures, Mortified reveals that, despite the drama, we were all pretty much the same. None of us were as cool as we thought we were, and Mortified provides a space where, as Lifton says, folks are treated as "a rockstar for being awkward. Everyone recognizes that across gender, race and sex. Nobody knew what they were doing—we still don't know."

Mar 2, 8pm, $13+
The Ritz, San Jose

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