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Issue: 2016-07-07, PHOTO: Eva Mitsui
Primary source material exhibit one: the teenage girl’s diary entry
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Issue: 2016-07-07, PHOTO: Eva Mitsui
The Miseners are looking for variety. Got old poems, short stories, letters? Dig them up, muster courage and read them aloud to a crowd of people who know you
Ten years ago husband and wife Dan and Jenna Misener were at Jenna's parents' house for Christmas. The couple was in Jenna's room, going through a box of childhood memorabilia. They found her diary. They spent the day reading entries aloud to each other.
It inspired them.
Back in Toronto, the Miseners booked a bar. They invited friends to dig up things they wrote as kids. Their friends responded. They read childhood writings aloud to each other in public, at the bar.
Since then, the Miseners haven't stopped. For 10 years they've traveled around Canada, booking spaces – like bars, or The Old Firehall – and inviting Canadians to read things they wrote as kids.
Grownups Read Things They Wrote as Kids will be in Whitehorse on July 12. At, you guessed it, The Old Firehall. Dan Misener says they've always wanted to come to Whitehorse, but “it's a long way away.”
Misener is from Halifax and lives in Toronto. “Anywhere in western Canada, especially north western Canada, is far,” he says over the phone from Toronto.
Furthermore, Grownups Read Things They Wrote as Kids is a hobby for the Miseners. A passion. Through an email, Dan says he and Jenna work day jobs as they tour. “We’re an indie production, and the show travels on its own dime.”
They tour year-round. The shows run almost exclusively on evenings and weekends. “It’s a great way to see the country,” says Misener.
At the time of the interview on June 15, Misener said they were still accepting applications from Yukoners who want to read. They want as many applications as possible, because they weed them out, keeping the most varied forms of writing.
“After awhile, all entries by teen girls sound the same,” says Misener.
That isn’t to disuade women with writings from their teenage years to apply. But they want more. Boys' diary entries, people who aren’t sure what gender they are (were)’s diary entries, book reports, science labs, letters, love notes, notes passed in school, confessions to self, rules to a secret club, political treatises, writing from six or seven-year-olds, poetry, novels – the more variety, the better.
Readers have five minutes.
The readings are recorded, and some of them make it onto a podcast of the same name. These readings are edited down to less than five minutes, and chosen, again, based on variety.
After 10 years of touring Canada, listening to grownups read aloud things they wrote as kids to crowds of people, one on top of Misener's mind was read recently. A 94-year-old man got on stage and read a letter he wrote home from camp – a historical document. It was replete with fart jokes. Misener said the crowd was in stitches.
“The letter was written in the '30s,” he says.
To Misener, it just goes to show, “a fart joke is a fart joke is a fart joke.” They transcend generations. Listening to grown ups read things as kids across Canada, summer after summer, isn’t monotonous, says Misener. That’s why they keep doing it.
And, crowds pack into venues to listen to the readings. Misener says they are a form of authenticity that people crave. “Nobody is hiding behind anything.”
People get on stage and read things that, for the most part, weren't meant to be read by anyone, or at least, weren't meant to be shared widely. It's intimate. And it takes a form of bravery that “sharing” doesn't require in this, the era of social media.
Misener encourages Yukoners to pull out childhood boxes and dig up old pieces of writing.
“Or call your parents, get them to send things to you,” he says.
Go to www.GrownUpsReadThingsTheyWroteasKids.com to sign up to read in Whitehorse and see a summary and history of the event, much like the one written here, but by Dan Misener.