Interview

Cultivating Empathy

Pop-Up Magazine is a live magazine, created for a stage, a screen, and a live audience. This September, POP-UP MAGAZINE returns to the Curran. We spoke with Marc Bamuthi Joseph — poet, playwright, librettist, We Shall Not Be Moved; chief of program and pedagogy, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts - on being a multimedia storyteller.

Curran: Tell us more about your work at the YBCA. What exciting programs and initiatives in the Bay Area are you working on this fall?

I’m probably most excited about the YBCA100 Summit happening on November 3rd. Every year YBCA does a community exercise of naming 100 people, movements, and organizations that we believe are asking culture shifting questions. At the Summit, we bring about half of the 100 to YBCA to engage with the broader public, and ask several of our honorees to lead us in instigating further dialogue through presentations and performances. This year the Summit features folks like Tarana Burke, Janet Mock, and Rafael Casal, as well as a special Youth-only Town Hall co presented with Youth Speaks and KQED, performances by Tongo Eisen-Martin, Mino Yanci and Luna Malbroux, and a special late night throw down with Jessica Care Moore’s Black WOMEN Rock! It should be amazing!

Lyrically-driven and embodied art has always provided the vernacular for social and political engagement in my life.

Curran: You're a poet, playwright, dancer, activist. What's it like being a multimedia storyteller? Do you find that these different mediums often come together in your creative work?

I grew up in the same place and at the same time that hip hop culture did. Lyrically-driven and embodied art has always provided the vernacular for social and political engagement in my life. I don’t think of myself so much as a multimedia storyteller as a person who traffics in the urgency of the moment. When the stakes of the moment require that you must cultivate empathy to survive, there’s no time to separate out according to discipline. You have to use anything that’s available to you to communicate the urgent truth, whether that’s spoken language, body language, and living color. I don’t have a ‘choice’ but to literally bring this word to life using any means necessary.

Curran: In one sentence, can you give us a sneak peek at your story in Pop-Up Magazine's upcoming tour?

Let’s just say my piece will touch on fatherhood and driving, race and gender with lots of interesting music, audio and visuals weaved in. That's all I can tell you for now—you'll have to come to the show to find out the rest!

  Pop-up at the Curran

Pop-Up Magazine is a live magazine—a night of new, true stories about the fascinating world around us. With photography, film, radio, and original music all mixed together and performed live onstage by a big cast of talented people.

Presented by the San Francisco Chronicle, Pop-Up Magazine: Fall Edition returns to the Curran September 20-22nd and there will be no video or audio posted online. You have to be there to see it.