Skip to Navigation Skip to Content

Pop Up Magazine: Magazines Live!

A recent Friday night in the Mission yielded an intriguing tapestry of events: a spirited introduction to Pee Wee’s Playhouse set designer Wayne White, a demonstration of a super-high-intensity laser pointer from China, an amusing customer-service comparison of UPS and FedEx drivers according to a particular monk population in rural Colorado. The soundtrack of electro-pop samples and gleeful noises of Cambodian children playing in the ponds at Angkor Wat added a charming ingredient to the mix. Too eclectic, you say, even for the Mission? Enter Pop-Up Magazine.

The live show, which premiered in April and occurs only periodically (the second transpired in September at the Brava Theater), unfolds onstage in the manner of a traditional magazine: shorter pieces up front; longer features at the end. San Francisco writer Douglas McGray (an Irvine fellow at the New American Foundation), a contributor of social-policy narratives for The New Yorker and the acclaimed public-radio show, This American Life, is Pop-Up’s editor in chief. “Branching out into radio opened my eyes to all the ways a story can be told,” says McGray, 34. Despite what he calls the “awkward phase” that journalism is currently suffering, the Maine native claims that Pop-Up Magazine is not a reaction to a floundering print-media industry. “Pop-Up is about curiosity and possibility,” he says. Pop-Up’s masthead comprises a who’s who of magazine veterans: creative directors Derek Fagerstrom (Esquire, ReadyMade) and Lauren Smith, story editor Evan Ratliff (Wired, The New Yorker) and design director Maili Holiman (ReadyMade, Wired). The team curates a line-up of previously unseen and unheard work from Bay Area writers, filmmakers and artists for this 75-minute unrehearsed performance—past contributors include Michael Pollan and Oscar-winning filmmaker Steven Okazaki. The third show is tentatively scheduled for early next year. “Are we planning number four? Certainly not. There’s never a guarantee that there’ll be another one. We take this one-night-only thing very seriously. It’s a show that shouldn’t be missed.”