Lit : 'Teen Angst' celebrates the accidently hilarious
By Deanne Beattie
The first Teen Angst show takes place at the Railway Club this Tuesday, March 11 at 7:00 p.m. If you wish to participate, contact the event coordinators at firstname.lastname@example.org, or bring your work to the event for a spontaneous performance.
Okay, this is brilliant. The event is “Teen Angst: A Celebration of Inadvertently Hilarious Adolescent Writing,” a sort-of talent show for self-respecting adults that choose to share the scripts, poetry, songs, and stories that they wrote as teenagers for friends and complete strangers — for the sheer hilarity of it. I sat down with event creators Sara Bynoe and Sarah Morgan for a better idea of what Teen Angst is about, now that it’s a monthly event at the Railway Club, an online community, and a theme that has been taken up on stages and in writing collections across the country.
The Peak: Where did the idea for Teen Angst come from?
Sara Bynoe: When I was 20, I was on the phone with a friend and I came across a binder full of poetry that my high school boyfriend wrote for me. I was mean, and shared it with her, and we laughed like mean, horrible girls. I thought, “Okay, wait, the karma’s going to get me — let me grab my poetry books,” because I wrote a lot, like over 400 poems as a teenager. I shared those and we laughed at those, and realized that was much funnier, so I began doing Teen Angst night in Calgary. Those were moreso focused on poetry, because that’s what I wrote. I moved out [to Vancouver], it kept on evolving, and then Sarah and I got in touch.
Sarah Morgan: I actually heard of this night called Salon of Shame, which is a night down in Seattle, through a friend. He told me how funny it was and how I had to see it, so I did, and I asked [the promoters] if it would be okay if I started a night like this in Vancouver. They suggested I talk to Sara, who had been doing this for a while, so we got in touch. This will be the first one we’re co-producing together, in March.
P: Now tell me, why are you encouraging respectable adults to unearth their angsty writing?
SB: Because it’s funny! Because it’s fun, it’s cathartic, and it’s one of those things [where] people cringe and think, “Oh God, I would never do that!” but when you come to these events . . . you get inspired, because people are up on stage and sharing these ridiculous things they wrote, putting their heart on a platter. Yet you laugh with them and at them, and understand that the feelings are so universal. You see all the love that they are getting, and you say, “I want to do that too, because this is awesome.”
SM: Everyone was a teenager once — everyone wrote ridiculous things.
SB: And if you kept it . . . you’ve kept it for a reason, and the reason is this night.
P: Teen Angst is now on the web, in print, and on the stage. Why do you think it has become so popular across North America?
SB: Because I just won’t stop [laughs]. It’s been fun, it’s been infectious. There are other nights, like Salon of Shame, that weren’t inspired by me but through others [doing similar events]. I started the website teenangstpoetry.com and it became hugely popular. We were on Metafilter once and we got like a million hits — our server crashed. It’s sort of that people want to go through dirty little secrets . . . you’re getting that window into someone else’s life, because these feelings of “I’m alone, no one understands my pain, life sucks, I will never love again” are so universal no matter what age you are.
SM: Yeah, I think that’s why it does so well across the board: because everybody was a teenager once, everybody’s gone through some sort of situation that they can hopefully look back on and laugh at, or [they] realize that other people have shared the same feelings once.
SB: I think that when you were a teenager, you also thought that these thoughts and feelings or whatever you were writing were so important at the time, and there’s a part of you that kind of wants to validate it. I know that when I was writing my stuff, I was thinking, “I’m going to save this. This is going to be important.” And I didn’t realize that I was just going to use it to make fun of myself years later — but it did serve its purpose. It has entertained me a lot, and given me a lot of stage time.