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On My Mind: Meghan Whelan

Meghan Whelanis producing “Casual Encounters,” a two-night storytelling event at the Fishtank Performance Studio.

“Everyone has an interesting story, but they just need a way to share it. That’s where I come in. I seem to be good at finding people an audience.”

Special to Ink

MEGHAN WHELAN, 32

Curator/producer of “Casual Encounters”

She had people spill their most embarrassing childhood diary entries onstage, and now Meghan Whelan is having them share their most hilarious online dating experiences.

The Kansas City native is producing a two-night storytelling event, “Casual Encounters” at the Fishtank Performance Studio, 1715 Wyandotte St. It will include comedic skits, personal narratives and audience participation. The show will be reminiscent of her popular “Dear Diary” series, which has showcased live readings of real-life journal entries for the past three years.

Whelan came up with the idea for “Casual Encounters” while listening to her best friend read off embarrassingly lame messages she’d received from guys on dating websites. In between laughs, Whelan realized that most people their age probably had their fair share of online dating disasters as well.

“I have friends who have met the love of their life online, but I also have a lot of friends who’ve had less-than-savory experiences,” Whelan said with a smile. “You can only have so much failure before you realize it’s actually kind of hilarious.”

Whelan is bringing in Kansas City homegrown comedian Susanna “Lucky DeLuxe” Lee, who now lives in Los Angeles, to host both nights. A couple of “Dear Diary” veterans will also participate.

The show starts at 7 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Tickets are available online at deardiary.brownpapertickets.com, $12 in advance; $15 at the door.

For more information, visit facebook.com/fishtanktheater.

Online dating: “A lot of people used to see online dating as desperate or embarrassing, but it’s become more acceptable now. We’re so isolated by technology these days. We don’t interact with people in person like we used to because we’re all so busy checking our phones. And chances are, no matter how you meet someone, you’re going to have some kind of virtual relationship with them.”

Future of dating: “It’s funny, but my 12-year-old son has no interest in social media, and he thinks people should have more face-to-face interactions. Maybe that’s the backlash for the generation after ours. These kids grew up looking at a screen but want to have real relationships. They know the Internet is a tool, not a substitute for a social life.”

Worst city for dating: “We live in a really big small town where it just feels like you’ve already met everyone in your demographic. And the way the suburbs are sprawled out in Kansas City, you practically have to take a roadtrip to date someone who lives across town. Plus, a lot of people in the Midwest want to get married and settle down in their 20s. It’s really tough to be single in your 30s in this city.”

Sharing dating stories: “The Fishtank is such a small space, and the stories we’re going to tell are so personal that it makes for a very intimate bonding experience between the people onstage and the audience. By asking the audience to share their stories, we can all laugh at ourselves together, which will make it more fun.”

Growing up creative: “I grew up around people who lived and breathed art. They’ve made it their life, which is incredibly inspiring and powerful. With hard work and by not caring what people think, you really can pursue your passion, no matter what it is. Bringing stories to life is my creative outlet.”

Words to live by: “Life is an adaptation, and you won’t adapt if you don’t face challenges. A lot of people lead cookie-cutter lives because they’re scared of the unknown. I want my son to know the unknown is the most exciting part of the journey.”

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