Most people have had those horrible dreams the ones where they're standing in the middle of the lunchroom with their pants around their ankles. The dream where a secret crush finds a love letter and reads it aloud to the class, or somehow everyone in school suddenly knows about a bed-wetting problem.

Most people never relive those embarrassing moments during waking hours. Until now.

"Mortified," a comic excavation of adolescent writing, art and media, is a hilarious and heart-warming presentation of all the embarrassing things we kept to ourselves as kids. The evening of short performances by real people sharing their childhood memories verbatim (direct from journals or diaries written before age 21) illustrates that nobody was alone in having a hard time growing up.

The show started in Los Angeles in 2002, and has rapidly expanded across the nation — with chapters in Chicago, New York City, Portland,Ore., and here in Austin, among others. It has spread across the stage, the page, the Web, and will soon be made into a concert film.

Today and Friday, "Mortified Austin" celebrates its three-year anniversary at the United States Arts Authority with a special exhibition of dioramas based on high school experiences. Performances will include the memories of an aspiring Comicon princess, a boy bent on chivalry, and a 10-year-old girl who bakes as much as grandma. And carrying the torch of the Austin music scene, they even have their own band. Formed specifically for "Mortified Austin," "The After School Delights" are the exclamation point at the end of each piece, covering songs from the past.

Open to anybody who was awkward as a kid (which was all of us), the show reinvents itself every few months. The "Mortified" website (www.getmortified.com) invites everyone to look through those old journals, diaries, and shoeboxes full of memories.

At the screenings (not auditions), participants share their relics with the show's producers, and together they unearth the mortifying moments that shaped a person's childhood. The process is often emotional and always (eventually) funny, but the point is that no one is ever alone in embarrassment. The four producers of "Mortified Austin" (Patrick Daniel, Erica Lies, Michelle Dahlenburg and Jessica Stookey), have all been participants themselves.

Working one-on-one with performers, the producers act as a strange hybrid of psychologist, archeologist, therapist and performance coach. They help to excavate the past, asking questions, re-constructing context, and building a frame to introduce the piece.

But the result isn't a monologue or otherwise polished performance. The beauty of the show is the genuine reactions of both performers and audience, and a little (or a lot of) sincere embarrassment makes the moments meaningful. Participants share their stories with each other at a single dress rehearsal, and then it's ready for the crowd.

'Mortified Austin'

When: 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday

Where: 2906 Fruth St.

Cost: $15

Info:www.getmortified.com