Earlier this month, Austinites were wowed and amazed by the latest installment of Pop-Up Magazine, the acclaimed and star-studded live-action magazine performance that’s been traveling the country. It’s filled with deeply moving stories, lots of humor, stunning visuals and a beautiful live orchestra. We laughed, we cried and we drank Bulleit Bourbon.
It’s hard to describe this event. I tried for days beforehand to get a sense of what this exactly was. No luck. It’s part play, part music, part symphony, part comedy show, part slam poetry hour and part monologue. Imagine this: You’re sitting in the audience with a Bulleit Bourbon cocktail in hand. A woman enters the stage, making her way to the microphone. The screen lights up with the title of her story. To the left, the orchestra starts to play the soundtrack to the story. The writer begins telling her story of how there’s a town in Alaska where bald eagles frequently attack residents and visitors. She pauses; a video plays on the screen of an interview with one of these residents. She resumes her story. As she’s describing scenarios, images appear on the screen to visually portray what she’s talking about. The music correlates to her inflections and the tone of the story. Her story is finished. The audience claps. The next writer enters the stage.
11 stories in total were portrayed through music, voice and art. Each story represents a different “department” of the magazine. These included nature, obituaries, culture, crime, education, profile, lives, dispatch, society, relationships and the arts.
Some of my favorite stories included “Food Police,” performed by Cynthia Graber and Nicola Twilley of Gastropod. The story was all about a man who works in the food crime unit of an England police department. They described how the unit was formed and his daily activities on this unit. Certainly makes you think about what food crimes could be committed here in the U.S.
Another was “About Face,” by Jon Mooallem. Jon’s doppelganger is a dead Spanish matador. He recounted how he came to discover this striking similarity and how it changed the way he thought about himself.
The crowd favorite was far and away “The Opera Singer,” by Tim Hussin and Tim Blevins. Hussin describes a homeless man (Blevins) who was once a Broadway opera singer. His painkiller addiction landed him on the streets. Throughout the story, clips from a documentary about Blevins played on the screen. At the end of the story, Blevins walked out on stage and performed a beautiful song that had most of the audience in tears. He received a standing ovation.
This is but a very short recap of Pop-Up Magazine. The Winter Tour 2017 is now over, but if you have an opportunity to attend this event in the spring or summer, do not hesitate for one moment to go.