What’s the best way to tell a story?

Pop-Up Magazine is a live magazine, created for a stage, a screen, and a live audience. This February, POP-UP MAGAZINE returns to the Curran. We speak with Anita Badejo, one of POP-UP MAGAZINE's senior story producers about art, story-telling - and the future.

Curran: What’s the origin story of Pop-Up Magazine?

Anita Badejo: Pop-Up Magazine was created in 2009, when our founder and editor-in-chief Doug McGray was still a freelance journalist. He had spent most of his career as a writer, and when he eventually started to produce radio stories, found it odd that storytellers in different mediums don’t cross paths as often as you’d think. He and our other founders started Pop-Up as a collaborative way to bring all types of storytellers together and to celebrate journalism and storytelling in all their unique, creative forms. The first show was at a 300-seat theater in San Francisco; nine years later, we’re kicking off our national “Winter Issue” tour in SF with two shows at the Curran!

C: How do audiences typically react to Pop-Up?

AB: We craft our stories in order to move people, so laughs, tears, goosebumps, gasps, etc. are always part of the experience. Most stories also have original scores by our house band, Magik*Magik Orchestra, which really helps set a unique mood for each of them. We often hear from people after the show that it’s one of the most emotionally compelling events they’ve attended.

Pop-Up's first show was at a 300-seat theater in San Francisco; nine years later, we’re kicking off our national “Winter Issue” tour in SF with two shows at the Curran.

C: What makes the show magazine-like? Tell us more about the format.

AB: We play off classic magazine features in a few different ways. For one, we open each “issue” with a live Editor’s Note from the hosts. In the program, each story has a slug in addition to its title, which is often inspired by popular magazine sections — think words like “Politics,” “Business,” “Advice,” “Relationships,” and more. The show itself is loosely structured like a magazine, with a front of book and a feature well. Our shorter pieces typically open the show, whereas more narrative, longform pieces tend to be in the second half.

C: If someone can’t make the show, can they still tune in? How can they stay informed about the next Pop-Up show?

AB: Yes! They can subscribe to our mailing list, which is the best way to hear about new shows, and there are going to be more and more ways to get involved in 2018.

What’s next for Pop-Up?

AB: A lot! We’re always experimenting with new storytelling mediums and approaches. In the past, we’ve staged a special musical collaboration with Beck and McSweeney’s (part-concert, part-storytelling event). We’ve hosted a dinner with chef Samin Nosrat, where every course and part of the meal was tied to a story told by someone at the table. Our “Fall Issue” this past November featured dance in a Pop-Up show for the first time, as well as an opera singer. Our format offers so many opportunities to figure out “What’s the best way to tell a story?” and there’s no end to what we might try. In the “Winter Issue” at the Curran, we’re debuting a story that the audience will actively decide the plot of — a first for us! There will also, as usual, be some special live surprises, including one story that isn’t ever quite over when you think it is…but I shouldn’t say more. You’ll have to come see for yourself.

POP-UP MAGAZINE's contributors will perform vivid, never-before-told, multimedia stories, accompanied by illustration, animation, photography, and an original score, performed onstage by musical collaborators Magik*Magik Orchestra. You’ll hear and watch stories about technology, immigration, science, travel, politics, art, music, and much more. The night ends gathered around the bar, performers and audience together. POP-UP MAGAZINE shows are one night only, and nothing goes online after—you have to be there to see them.

Contributors to the 2018 “Winter Issue” in San Francisco include National Geographic photographer David Guttenfelder; podcast hosts Brittany Luse and Eric Eddings (Gimlet’s The Nod) and Rose Eveleth (Flash Forward, ESPN’s 30 for 30); writers Jon Mooallem (Wild Ones; writer at large, The New York Times Magazine), Bonnie Tsui (The California Sunday Magazine, The New York Times), James Bennett II (WXQR from New York Public Radio), Chris Colin (Afar), and Albert Samaha (BuzzFeed News); filmmaker Veena Rao (The New York Times Op-Docs); and more.

POP UP MAGAZINE will be at the Curran this February 1st and 2nd.