A theatrical diary of teenage proportions, Dear Diary, LOL takes as its charge staging the verbatim words from five 13 year old American girls’ diaries in the early 2000s. Originally conceived under the title of This Song is for You as part of 2015 Pig Iron School’s Dares Festival, Dear Diary, LOL exposes the the often hilarious, always tumultuous, struggles of a small group of America’s soon-to-be women. Created and led by Francesca Montanile, with Antigravity Performance Project.
WHY THIS SHOW?
A while back, I found the diary that I kept when I was 13. It was written almost exclusively in glitter pen. I read it. I was so ashamed that I hid it and pretended it didn't exist. Then I found it again years later. I read it again. I held my breath the whole time. I couldn't believe that I was the same person who wrote those words. I felt intensely embarrassed. As I gathered a team of hilarious women to make the work, others in the ensemble shared similar feelings and offered their diaries as source material too. From there the piece was born.
After studying the source diaries, it became abundantly clear that concerns, questions, and desires around sex were the biggest unifying theme. As adults, we have trouble thinking about and talking about the sexuality of young girls. This silence is damaging. It encourages a culture where young girls learn it's more important to be objects of desire (which leads to increased social status) rather than subjects of desire (which is met with disgust and shame.) More than ever before, there is less separation between the media and pop culture and teenagers, who are forming their senses of self based on representations readily available on the internet and social media. I want to talk about - and laugh about - young sexuality instead of pretending it doesn’t exist like we so often do, leading girls to furiously scribble in diaries or fumble in the dark trying to understand it, afraid to ask a question, feeling shame and confusion about curiosities that are natural. By exposing the secret words we wrote when we were young, I want to let today's young girls know that they are not alone and provide a moment of communal relief/reckoning for those of us who have come out the other end.
MEET THE DIARIES
Alicia's journal is full of doodles that have inspired visual moments in the piece. She is also the lyric writer of all of the songs in the piece, including such hits as Deep Dark Whole and Not Forgotten.
Alicia is also a performer/creator, and set/props artisan in Dear Diary LOL!
As soon as I saw the cover of this one, I knew it would be good. It's scrawled all over with an almost illegible warning: "PLEASE DON’T READ. Please respect privacy! Do not read this. This previously scheduled notebook has been changed to a Diary! *Please don’t read! If you have any respect for me at all, you will not read this if you find it. Thank You."
So of course I had to read it, and lucky for me Nikki was excited to share this diary with us. She was a prolific diarist, with long, poetic, and detailed descriptions of every boy she had a crush on. She numbered every single entry and frequently went back to cross things out or comment on things she had written, especially if they were about boys she no longer liked- the best was when a name was crossed out, added back in, crossed out again, and then notated with an arrow and a comment saying simply, "stupid." Nikki has many sides to herself and different voices revealed in the journal - like this page where she wrote a dialogue between her "mean side" and "good side", which we were immediately excited to theatricalize.
Nikki also performs as one of the pink workers in the piece.
Naomi is the coolest person I know and not only am I SO lucky to have had her as a bff for so long (11 years!) BUT ALSO she has given me the great gift of reading and theatricalizing her middle school diary.
Let's look inside the journal!! It was a game changer for the piece - it has moments of pure earnestness and moments of total angst (like when she lists, "Mood: extremely depressed. Music: Death Cab for Cutie.") It's full of wise words beyond her years and hilarious anecdotes, like this one about her father's wedding, performed by Alicia Crosby.
Each entry is endearingly signed, in cursive, "Yours truly, Naomi Inoshita."
At 13, Sarah was a hopeless romantic. While other diaries sometimes skirted around it- Sarah was unafraid to say, "I just wanna make out with somebody sometimes!!!" From her diary also comes the most relatable line, "Seriously, it is so lame that I feel nervous the whole day about feeling nervous the next day." She provides us with the details of many saucy dreams, including one wear she is wearing a "diaper thong thing," which Philadelphia props designer extraordinnaire (and performer/creator of this work) Alicia Crosby then made for me as a gift after our January showing at FringeArts in Philadelphia. I treasure it.
Sarah was a performer/creator in our Philadelphia run- an invaluable artistic force in the creation of this work!
Francesca Montanile Lyons
My diary was written in glitter pen. A moment in the show where two character french kiss small pink frames was born because in my diary I was OBSESSED with kissing and trying to figure out what tongues did. 75% of my journal is about French kissing. The other 25% is about how unlovable I thought I was. Thank you always to Megan Thibodeaux for playing my words in a way that has helped me love who I was and who I am, and to the audiences who have helped me feel less alone through their laughter and commiseration.
Megan's diary begins - "Well, now that I'm a "teen," I guess I should have a diary so when I'm old I can laugh at myself" - and so we were blessed with the perfect first line for our show.
Megan also created a key rating all of her entries on a scale of Boring to Very Very Very Exciting. They are all VVVE.Megan's diary contains the most HIGH STAKES, HIGH DRAMA entries of them all,
Megan is also a performer, creator, and set/props artisan in Dear Diary LOL!
“Dear Diary LOL is the funniest show I have seen in ages… Francesca Montanile Lyons is also the director of this time capsule theater experience along with Michael T. Williams. I found their directorial choices to be inspired, with mountains of comedic blocking brilliance. They chiseled away any excess to go right to the jugular of the societal commentary. Their choreography of the “dance” of a young girl’s life is mesmerizing… These emerging artists are pulsating with talent and their directorial vision deserves a standing ovation.” - Stagebiz Review of 2018 Ice Factory 25 Production
“It’s a show that makes women in the audience reach back into the recesses of their memories and pull out painful memories or embarrassing interactions and try to be OK with them. Girls try to be so perfect all the time in a society that is only starting to allow them to be messy, complex humans, and we absolutely need more theater like this.” - Exuent NYC Review of 2018 Ice Factory 25 Production
“This is one trip down memory lane that's definitely worth taking!” Opplaud 5-Star Review of 2018 Ice Factory 25 Production
“As audiences’ steady giggles and “awws” attest, Dear Diary LOL is as relatable as it is funny, inviting us to empathize with our younger selves as we laugh at their extremes. Beneath its hot-pink surface beats a tender heart and the universal queries of adolescence: Am I alone? Am I worthy? Does anyone understand?“ - Theatre is Easy Review of 2018 Ice Factory Production
“AntiGravity achieves more than nostalgic fun-poking, exploring a uniquely turbulent time of life with brutal honesty.” - Broad Street Review of 2017 Fringe Festival Production
Lead Artist Francesca Montanile Lyons
Directors Francesca Montanile Lyons & Michael T. Williams
Creator/Performers Kelly Conrad, Alicia Crosby, Nikki Hudgins, Jessica Johnson, Francesca Montanile Lyons, Jenna Strusowski, Megan Thibodeaux, and Michael T. Williams
Lighting Designer Kate McGee
Sound Designer Tom Carman
Set/Props Artists Alicia Crosby & Megan Thibodeaux
Produced by Eleanor Regan, Michael T. Williams, & Antigravity
Additional Devisors: Sarah Knittel, Gina Elizabeth Murdock, Riva Rubenoff, and Andalyn Young.
Diaries by Alicia Crosby, Naomi Inoshita, Sarah Knittel, Francesca Montanile Lyons, Megan Thibodeaux, Nikki Hudgins
Ice Factory Production Photos by Garrett Allen