At the last stop on its fall tour, the live magazine Pop-Up Magazine filled Chicago’s Athenaeum Theatre with a captivating, multisensory experience. The evening consisted of ten pieces read aloud by ten different writers, with each piece accompanied by a different element: photography, graphic art, live music, documentary clips, audio snippets, or a sample scent. While the stories encompassed a wide range of topics, including racial injustice, friendship, immigration, popular culture, and community, in one way or another, they all examined what it means to be a human being in 2018.
Pop-Up Magazine evoked a range of emotions; tears streamed down my cheeks during “Mimi & Brownie,” Veena Rao’s story about two lifelong best friends, while the relentless power within Marc Bamuthi Joseph’s slam poem, “You Have the Rite” shook me to my core. Rowan Jacobson’s presentation of “Ghost Flower” created a sense of community among the audience when everyone took a communal whiff of an extinct flower, the mountain hibiscus, a scent no one, aside from Pop-Up’s audience members, has smelled in a century.
While the content of the stories themselves proved to be more than capable of standing on their own, the visual, audible, and olfactory components of the presentations made them even more engaging. I never once had the urge to whip out my phone for some distraction. Pop-Up Magazine introduces a new way of storytelling: it argues that not all stories are best told by one medium whether it be an open-mike reading, an online op-ed, or a documentary film, but rather a combination of multiple media.