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Mortified Nation

A new documentary highlights a Chicago tradition of re-reading adolescent angst.

By Entertainment

A new documentary highlights a Chicago tradition of re-reading adolescent angst


Writing fanatical Christian fan mail to Audrey Hepburn. Handwritten stories border-lining on plagiarizing Jurassic Park. Angst-ridden English 101 journal entries.

And, of course, an honest-to-God aching for a then-indeterminable sexual act to be performed upon a boy’s first kiss:

“I knew she wanted it. And I wanted to give it to her. But…what IS it?”

A long-standing tradition in Chicago, Mortified has become a nationwide phenomenon drawing those courageous (albeit self-flagellating) few to the stage to share their most horrific life moments reinterpreted through their hormone-crazed, pencil-wielding selves. Chocked-full of cringe-worthy, true-life personal information— similar to walking into someone else’s post-raunchy summer confessional—you just can’t look away while a handful of readers recite their most private diaries, school assignments, and love letters from their adolescences. And it is just as painful as it sounds—for everyone involved.

In Chicago, Mortified typically takes place in the back room of Schubas Tavern in Lakeview, where an equally disturbing array of readers’ high school prom photos and 1981 driver’s licenses are flipped through like a game of 52-card humiliation. This weekend, however, Mortified is making its big-screen debut at the Gene Siskel Film Center at the Stranger Than Fiction documentary film festival. The film, titled Mortified Nation, is directed by Michael Mayer and produced by Shay DeGrandis and Neil Katcher.

The documentary includes interviews with organizers and participants who offer their perspectives on adolescence and what can be gained from exposing your deepest secrets to an audience. And, as those who have experienced Mortified Live in Chicago, Los Angeles, Brooklyn, and the many other cities which host the event, the film will provide the usual guffaws and face-palms—as well as surprising moments that reveal heart and humanity even in the midst of teenage dread.

Mortified Nation premiers at this year’s Stranger Than Fiction documentary film festival on Friday, January 17 at 8:30 p.m. and Saturday, January 18 at 3:00 p.m. Director, Mike Mayer, film Producer and Founder, Neil Katcher will be there for Q&A as well as local producers of Mortified Live, Shay DeGrandis and Annette Ferrara.

Visit the Gene Siskel Film Center’s website to buy tickets, and see the Mortified website for a complete schedule of live shows in Chicago.

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