This week in the ever-creative world of modern media, Chicago gets its first edition of Pop-Up Magazine, a touring show that infuses traditional print and radio journalism with art, music, and theater.
Launched in 2009 in San Francisco by reporter Douglas McGray, the event is billed as a way to bridge sequestered sects of media. (McGray had the idea after moving from magazine journalism to This American Life.) Over the last six years, the show has ballooned in popularity and this year went on tour. Of the tour’s seven shows, Chicago’s is the only one that hasn’t sold out.
The touring Pop-Up Magazine company features 11 performers, including hosts of the popular Buzzfeed podcast Another Round, Heben Nigatu and Tracy Clayton, and New York Times Magazine staff writer Jenna Wortham. They’ll perform alongside a cast of locals: WBEZ reporter Linda Lutton, indie rock duo Homme, and the touring Humboldt Park-based shadow-puppeteers Manual Cinema.
“I love that print journalism can be timeless,” says McGray, “but at a time when everything is archived, it’s special when something happens once and goes away. You pay attention in a different way because you know you can’t watch it on YouTube the next day.”
With that in mind, Chicago asked McGray to dish on tonight’s Chicago performers, without giving away the surprise.
“It’s like they make movies out of shadows right in front of your eyes,” says McGray of this local shadow-theater company, whose act with Jenna Wortham and Magik*Magik Orchestra is part of Pop-Up’s touring show. “It’s a really good example of the sort of thing we do, and a symbol for this tour—teaming up people from different places to tell a story. There are 11 people on stage.”
The WBEZ reporter of This American Life’s Harper High-fame will spin what McGray calls a “funny story with a surprising twist… about an experience probably a lot of us had in school.” According to The Reader, the story is about kids trying to get out of swimming class.
Homme (with Radiolab’s Jad Abumrad)
The indie rock duo of Sima Cunningham and Macie Stewart (Marrow, ex-Kids These Days) will interpret a story by Radiolab host Jad Abumrad. “In each city we have different musicians take a story that Jad tells and interpret it as a song,” says McGray, who chose Homme at the recommendation of Pop-Up’s Chicago-based sound engineer. “You’ll hear Jad tell the story—it’s about space—and then he hands it off to Homme, who performs the story in song.”
Pop-Up Magazine opens Tuesday, October 27, at 7:30 at the Athenaeum, 2936 N. Southport. popupmagazine.com; $25–$47.