Pop-Up Magazine tells memorable stories through unusual method


Colin Yaccarino | Photography Editor

Pop-Up Magazine, a live-action show which tells journalistic stories through performance, art, and music, debuted for the first time in New Orleans last Friday at Civic Theatre.

Last Friday at Civic Theatre, renowned journalists, musicians and photographers came together to create a piece of art unlike any other. Pop-Up Magazine is a traveling multimedia performance that features 10 segments ranging from hilarious to tragic.

The show opened with an ode to several black icons depicted by painter Shyama Golden in unlikely contemporary settings. The highlight of the show featured a painting called “Scene from a Popeyes,” in which the fast food chain is reimagined with Beyoncé, Kanye West, Oprah, Ida B. Wells, Serena Williams and James Baldwin.

Colin Yaccarino | Photography Editor
Painter Shyama Golden reimagined fast food chain Popeyes filled with celebrities like Beyoncé, Kanye West, Oprah, Ida B. Wells, Serena Williams and James Baldwin in her piece, “Scene from a Popeyes.”

Like a real magazine that caters its content to its readers, this performance of Pop-Up Magazine featured stories relevant to New Orleans.

“In the Barroom” by photojournalist L. Kasimu Harris poetically documented the gentrification that threatens the nightlife of New Orleans. A native of the city himself, Harris differentiated between the Old New Orleans and the “New New Orleans” – post-Katrina New Orleans, that is. Accompanied by a montage of dive bars, New Orleans faces and humid nights, Harris described this as New Orleans’ everlasting “tension between preservation and progress.”

Author Nathaniel Rich continued the New Orleans theme with a true story about “The Axeman,” accompanied by clever animations and music by the Magik*Magik orchestra. A surprise live performance by jazz band Joe Lastie’s New Orleans Sound encapsulated the spirit of the story and the city. Members of the audience got on their feet to celebrate jazz music and creepy history, two defining elements of the Crescent City’s culture.

The reimagination of a general interest magazine was maintained throughout, with a balance of news, comedy and tragedy. When “National Geographic” photographer David Guttenfelder came out to tell a story about life on the Korean peninsula, the room became more solemn.

Guttenfelder shared images of a South Korean woman and her family, living on an island under constant threat of siege by North Korea. When asked why she did not want to move to the safer mainland with her husband, she said she could not imagine living apart from a community so strengthened by the bonds of fear.

Compared to Guttenfelder’s usual duties as a photographer, Pop-Up Magazine has been a refreshing change that allows him to play a more visible role in his work beyond just being the credit under his photos.

“I’m used to being the invisible person in the background,” Guttenfelder said.

Colin Yaccarino | Photography Editor
Author Nathaniel Rich told the true story of “The Axeman,” with a surprise live performance by jazz band Joe Lastie’s New Orleans Sound.

Similar to how many print magazines incorporate interactive components, Pop-Up Magazine had a choose-your-own-adventure segment. Each audience member possessed a small envelope that was to remain close until they received the instruction to open it. Rose Eveleth, the host of “Flash Forward,” came on stage and finally told the audience to open the envelope.

The envelope contained two glow sticks that audience members would hold up when prompted to indicate which route of the adventure to pursue. Told in second person, “Welcome to the Vanguard Estates” dealt with an aging father in an assisted living facility run completely by robots. Accompanied by stark illustrations by Katherine Lam and eerie music by the Magik*Magik Orchestra, the story-line felt all too real.

Other highlights of New Orleans’ first Pop-Up Magazine show included a story by New York Times writer Jon Mooallem and a piece about a founding member of Filipino disco band VST as a baggage claim attendant at San Francisco International Airport.

For those who missed this show but want to experience the incredible performance, Pop-Up Zine, a performance of similar structure built for smaller communities, is in the works.

Though the creators maintained the analogy of a real print magazine, the show differed in one key way: unlike a book or magazine that can be reopened and reread, these performances were not filmed and were therefore only available for enjoyment once rather than enshrined in tangibles. Sometimes, our fondest moments are the ones that “pop up” in memory.

Leave a Comment