Have you ever wondered what your favorite magazine would look like if the stories and artwork within came to life? Pop-Up Magazine, the live variety show doing just that, is “popping up” in D.C. again with its spring issue, full of new stories to feast your eyes, ears and hearts on.
If you aren’t familiar with Pop-Up Magazine (yet!), here’s the premise: journalists, authors, actors and other captivating storytellers take the stage for one night only to tell nonfiction stories -- the kind you might read in an actual print magazine -- that will make you laugh and cry -- quite possibly at the same time. All of this is enhanced by art, music, audience engagement and other elements that truly bring the stories to life.
Without giving too much away, story producer and host of Pop-Up Magazine Anita Badejo was able to share with DC Refined what’s in store for the spring issue.
Among the highlights? A story about Donald Trump’s favorite salad.
“We have a great story by Helen Rosner, who is an amazing food writer at the New Yorker," said Badejo. "She is doing a really great politics story that starts off by talking about the wedge salad, which happens to be Trump’s favorite salad, and then pivots into a direction you were not expecting to go."
Others will tell the stories of “condolence gifts sent in the aftermath of mass shootings,” “young children boxing their way out of poverty in Thailand,” and a “true-crime story that begins at a ‘sex therapy institute.’”
The cohort of spring contributors include Parenthood actor Joy Bryant, photographer Andres Gonzalez, filmmaker Marcus Ubungen, and New York Times Op-Ed staff editor Jenée Desmond-Harris.
In addition to never-before-told stories, Badejo shared that some of the show's accompanying elements will be brand new to Pop-Up. For example, one performance will feature a live actor embodying the character in the story and another will have “live art.”
“You are actually going to see all of the art unfolding live before your eyes as the story is being told, which is really, really exciting,” Badejo said.
Even though it’s a live show, Pop-Up Magazine is still organized just like a general interest magazine.
“We have a ‘book’ with shorter stories, tropes like lists or how-tos, quizzes, advice columns and then we go into a feature-well where we have long, narrative stories,” Badejo described.
The show's program even resembles a magazine's table of contents.
What makes Pop-Up particularly special is the “in the moment” feeling you have to embrace. The stories don’t live on after the show - they aren’t posted online and the producers strongly emphasize that all phones be put away during the 90-minute show.
Badejo says that this is also because Pop-Up Magazine is designed to be seen in person, in a theater. She said that a live show truly is its own medium, similar to print or television, and the way you would craft a story for one platform wouldn’t quite work the same for the other.
“If you were going to record the show and put it online after, it would look totally different and it would feel totally different because it’s made to be in a theater,” Badejo said.
That look and feel of a live show contributes to the lasting impact Pop-Up has on audiences.
“I think most people are used to consuming stories, especially nonfiction journalistic stories, in isolation," Badejo said. "So, you’re reading that magazine or that newspaper in your house, or on your commute, or you’re listening to [a] podcast that way. And Pop-Up is meant to be a communal experience, so you are in a theater with a group of people listening to an incredible non-fiction story, which is not usually the way you are used to receiving those stories."
In an era where we are constantly inundated with information, allowing yourself to focus on an hour and a half of creative storytelling definitely leaves an impression.
“We hear people talking about stories that they’ve seen at Pop-Up Magazine years and years afterward," Badejo said. "I’m not sure how many stories people are taking in on a daily basis that speak to the same issue that they’ll remember in the same way, so that’s something that we’re really excited about."
The live action magazine will wrap up its spring tour at the Warner Theatre on May 23 at 7:30 p.m. Interested in seeing Pop-Up Magazine? You can get tickets here.