One postcard was a simple picture of London's Leicester Square tube stop.

It read: "He said 'You can fall in love and live a lifetime in just a moment. And then he was gone. 30 years later, I still dream about the boy I never knew."

Another card, postmarked Denver, stated: "I just turned 37 and still hope for money in my birthday cards."

Every week, PostSecret creator Frank Warren gets hundreds of postcards at his home at 13345 Cooper Ridge Rd., Germantown, Md., 20874. The former suicide hotline counselor started putting his home address out in the public eye in 2005. It was part of a project he had designed: People could send in cards (and these days, online posts) anonymously sharing true secrets they'd never told anyone:

The Only Reason I'm With Him Is To See If You Care Enough To Fight For Me

I'm glad we're no longer friends. The only thing we did that I enjoyed was binge drinking.

My parents told me boys didn't love girls who looked like me. They were right.

At first, PostSecret was an art project. Then it was a blog site. Now, the "community art project" is an official website, a TED talk, multiple books, museum installations, and, thousands of secrets later, a dramatic event on tour. The PostSecret Stage Show lands at the Kimmel Center on Friday and Saturday.

The production will focus on actors reading people's postcards:

I think your husband is a jerk. And you would be so much better off with me. But I am afraid if you dumped him for me . . . You would later think you made a mistake.

In some cases, we learn how the stories turned out, because many posters follow up with Warren after posting their secrets, telling what happened. Actors also read secrets culled from the audience, said Warren. "It's a crowdsourced performance," he said. "It's romantic and painful and powerful and inspiring."

Parts of the show are inspired by responses to the website. One sender wrote that s/he saved everyone's voice mails, in case it was the last time s/he heard from them. In some posts, people share their loved ones' last words. At one PostSecret show, a woman went on stage and played the final voice mail from a parent. She had never listened to it before, she said; she'd been too scared.

"You'll definitely need some tissues," Warren said about the PostSecret Stage Show, "but I promise there will be laughing, too."

Frances Egler, director of programming for the Kimmel Center, said there was a trend of blogs, podcasts, and alt-media venues such as PostSecret becoming shows and going on the road. Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me came to the Mann Center, and Stuff You Should Know came to the Trocadero last year. The Kimmel hosted Serial creators Sarah Koenig and Julie Snyder last year. The defense attorneys from the Netflix series Making a Murderer will appear at the Keswick Theatre on April 1.

"Audiences are looking for something that's not formulaic," said Egler. "With these shows, you know what you're going to get because you know the story, but you get to see the people involved with the production and gain a deeper understanding of the story."

One reason the Kimmel was drawn to PostSecret, Egler said, was that it was more an intimate experience than a large production. It will be presented in the Perelman auditorium, which seats 600 people.

"When you listen to a podcast, it's a personal experience because you're listening to it alone, and this gives people a way to make it a more collective experience, because you're with other people who've also listened along," Egler said. "With PostSecret, if you go to the blog or listen to the TED talk, you're by yourself. This is with hundreds of individuals who've had similar experiences with the collection that's moved them and affected them."

Warren, who was driving to San Diego to talk about a PostSecret project there, said even with today's reality-show, live-journal, Facebook-sharing culture, there was still a definite culture of secrets.

What's funny, he said, is that he was never the kind of person people shared their secrets with in real life, even as a hotline counselor. And when he meets people, they don't share their secrets in person - only through the cards he gets in the mail. In post after post, you sense a person's relief in finally being able to say it, whatever it may be:

I finally discovered that my greatest fear isn't being alone; it's being vulnerable.

"There are two kinds of secrets," Warren said. "The ones we keep from others and the ones we hide from ourselves."

Dawn Fallik is a former Inquirer staff writer and an assistant professor of journalism at the University of Delaware.


PostSecret: The Show

8 p.m. Friday and 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday at the Kimmel Center's Perelman Thheater, Broad and Spruce Streets.

Tickets: $35-$65.

Information: 215-670-2300 or