Humans have been telling each other stories for thousands of years. Before the advent of writing, this was one of the only ways we knew to pass down our culture’s morals, values, and crucial information necessary for survival. Most great stories from the past started out in the oral tradition: The Odyssey, The Iliad, Gilgamesh, heck, even The Bible. But today, with access to stunning images, 4k super-hi-def videos, streaming television, music, and even books with just the swipe of a finger, our time spent simply telling stories to one another has fallen by the wayside. The closest we get to this today is the daily bedtime reading to our children–and even that falls short, since someone else wrote the words and did the imagining.
Before this week, I couldn’t help but feel that this lack of interpersonal communication and creativity might be a major contributing factor to my paranoia revolving around an impending social collapse.
Thankfully, I attended Portland, Oregon’s showing of Pop-Up Magazine and immediately felt a sense of relief wash over me.
But, you might be thinking, what the hell is Pop-Up Magazine?
Well, quite simply, it’s just what it says it is–a pop-up magazine. Instead of reading text and viewing images on a page, the stories you would normally peruse in a general interest magazine are brought to life with live-music and multi-media accompaniment. Authors read their work right in front of you, while animations, orchestral performances, and videos play along with them as they progress throughout their story. Rather than feeling physically removed from the moment (like you feel when reading an actual magazine), at a Pop-Up Magazine showing, you’re brought in right alongside the author–you hear his or her voice, feel it’s strain at emotional parts, its volume at moments of power, and recognize the implied communication in his or her body language. In a sense, it’s an exercise in being present and in-the-moment.
And it’s that personal, close, in-the-moment connection that truly brings these stories to life. From a story of a an Alaskan fishing port invaded by bald eagles, to an almost-noir description of a Food Police officer involved in ‘Horsegate,’ to the true tale of a man who worked tirelessly for decades to pass the 27th Amendment to the US Constitution, this year’s Pop-Up Magazine offered up a deeply satisfying, real-life experience of community and communication. And the best part? None of this is recorded. There is no record of the event or the performances. No Youtube videos, no audio–nothing. The event is as fleeting and impermanent as those first oral stories passed down from generation to generation while sitting around a fire. You’ll never see a Pop-Up Magazine performance in any way other than live–and that makes it truly unique among live entertainment today.
And, to be clear, most of the performers are not professional actors or speakers–they’re regular people just like you and me. In fact, just like you and me, some of these performers are struck by a bit of stage fright prior to the show and so Pop-Up Magazine has a tradition of taking a shot of Bulleit bourbon (one of our favorites here at The Manual) before each performance. It’s for this reason that Bulleit graciously sponsors the show and provides a fun and live ‘commercial’ between acts to promote their culture creator collaboration program, #frontierworks.
Alas, this year’s tour is about to come to a close, but have no fear, there’s always next year. To stay up to date on Pop-Up Magazine’s latest shows and projects, head to their website and sign-up to receive the latest news and ticket information.
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