Pop-Up Magazine Is Back and Everyone Is Pumped

Um, so what is it, anyway?

By Fiona McCann October 19, 2017

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It’s a magazine. But onstage. It’s got graphics and a custom musical score. But it’s live. It’s had two highly successful Portland shows already. But there’s no archival footage of either one. Here’s what you hear most about Pop-Up Magazine, en route to Revolution Hall next week: It’s kinda hard to explain—you just have to see the show.

Since its inception in 2009 as, in the words of editor-in-chief Douglas McGray, a “live magazine,” Pop-Up Magazine has won fans around the country, many of them Portlanders who’ve witnessed magician and New York Times crossword puzzle creator David Kwong, the New York Times Magazine's Jon Mooallem, and Heben Nigatu and Tracy Clayton of podcast Another Round—among others—doing, well ... what exactly? Telling stories. Reporting. Performing. Incorporating video and graphics and animation and, in one case, the story subject himself for narratives and profiles and dispatches. All the stuff of magazine delight, but translated from page to stage.            

This time around, the Portland lineup includes TV writer and editor Cord Jefferson (he counts Master of None and The Good Place among his credits), comedian Aparna Nancherla, Portland-based filmmakers Donal Mosher and Mike Palmieri, and Robin Amer, a reporter and podcast host with USA Today. The lineup is testimony: Pop-Up Magazine invites storytellers from very different arenas to bring their skills to a multimedia, multi-voiced show. 

“I’m an investigative reporter and my background is in public radio and podcasting,” says Amer, who points to the number of live touring shows that have emerged from her professional realm, including This American Life and Radioab. Pop-Up Magazine, she says, is different. “The thing I think they did that goes beyond what I’d done previously is there are visuals, and they have filmmakers and photographers,” she says. “I’ve seen pieces where they’ve commissioned original animation to go with a story, and I love that and I think it’s so beautiful.”

Moser’s piece is a story with both a visual and audio component.

“I’m performing with a professional opera singer,” says Amer, whose piece relates to renowned 20th-century diva Maria Callas and the time she spent in Chicago in the 1950s. “[Soprano] Emily Birsan will be singing bits of arias to punctuate my story.” There’s also a visual component, put together by Pop-Up Magazine to enhance Amer’s piece. “That does really kick things up a notch!”

Edge-of-seat stories with slide shows and opera singers? That’s the kind of thing you can get from Pop-Up Magazine, and explains its perennial popularity around these parts. “I do think what we’re doing is probably really unique in that respect,” says Amer.

Portland audiences will bear witness on Monday. If you failed to snap up a hot ticket, fear not: McGray vows it’ll be back to a Portland theater near you soon. Watch this space. 

Pop-Up Magazine

7:30 p.m. Mon, Oct 23, Revolution Hall, SOLD OUT

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