Pop-Up Magazine is not a magazine, at least not in the traditional sense. There's no paper or subscription cards, and it would make a terrible liner for your litter box. Instead, Pop-Up is a magazine come to life.
A live storytelling event in the vein of the Moth or Mortified, Pop-Up features best-selling and award-winning authors, filmmakers, journalists, audio producers, musicians, and emerging voices, who tell stories—sometimes personal, but usually reported—accompanied by film, music, graphics, and art. But unlike the Moth, Mortified, and other traveling shows, Pop-Up happens one time only. There's no podcast or video recorded for later. If you miss it in person, you miss it for good.
The ephemeral nature of Pop-Up is part of what makes it unique, and this was very much by design, says Derek Fagerstrom, a former magazine editor who founded Pop-Up with his wife, designer Lauren Smith, and Doug McGray, a writer and radio producer whose work has appeared in the New Yorker, the New York Times, and This American Life. The three were neighbors and friends living in San Francisco, and after dreaming of what a live magazine would look like, Pop-Up was born. The first event was at a 250-seat theater in the Mission District; now they sell out symphony halls.
"We wanted to give people an experience they wouldn't get sitting at a screen," Fagerstrom says. "When we launched this thing, a lot of magazines were folding, and events were on YouTube immediately after they happened. People are distracted, and we don't want Pop-Up to be another distraction, another link that you click between doing other things."
Eight years after its inception, Pop-Up Magazine goes on three national tours a year, and they will be returning to Seattle on April 30 for their third appearance here. Seattle is a fitting city for Pop-Up: We're a book-reading city, a public radio city, a city that treats cultural events with as much reverence as sports. This time around, Pop-Up is joining forces with the most storied of magazines, National Geographic, and the night will feature Erika Bergman, a National Geographic Explorer and submarine pilot; Cord Jefferson, a writer for Master of None; Jon Mooallem, the author of Wild Ones; Fazeelat Aslam, an award-winning documentary filmmaker; and others. And, as always, the show will be accompanied by an original live score by Magik*Magik Orchestra.
"National Geographic has 150 years of experience with storytelling and exploration," Fagerstrom says. "We're huge fans of them, and we know our audience is too. So we're going to bring our storytellers and they are going to bring their storytellers for a smart, surprising, and, hopefully, unforgettable night." And you can join them in person, but never, ever online.