In a whirlwind mix of personal accounts, comedy, in-person exposes, animation and musical performance, Pop-Up Magazine’s “The Escape Issue” tour artfully fulfilled its purpose of drawing the audience away from reality for an uninterrupted evening by presenting a new way of portraying stories on stage, bringing them to the audience in a completely immersive manner a page could not replicate.
The two-hour production consisted of 10 acts reminiscent of Ted Talks. Contributors to the live magazine, including comedians, singers, poets and actresses shared stories through humor, photo essays, investigative journalism and more with their short performances.
Pop-Up Magazine feels equal parts performance and literary, highlighting the possibilities of turning a publication into an experience.
The novel format allows for the acts to share stories in a way that is distinct for the show, according to Marin Cogan, senior producer of Pop-Up Magazine.
“Every single time we put on a show, we think a lot about what the arc of the show will look like,” Cogan said in an interview with The Hoya. “If you come to a Pop-Up Magazine show, you’re getting stories that you’re not going to get anywhere else.”
The show fit perfectly in Lincoln Theatre’s usual repertoire of indie performances, thanks to its eclectic subject matter and the ornate space of the theater which contrasted the Magazine’s setup with its bold graphics screen and simple black stage.
The opening act of Pop-Up Magazine’s “Escape” issue featured a hilarious piece performed by comedian and internet sensation Chris Duffy. He detailed his transition from a contestant on “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” to the subject of an internet meme that showed him looking utterly confused at a question about the classic ’90s song “No Diggity” by Blackstreet. Committed to his role as a comedian, Duffy had the audience roaring with the accounts of other ordinary people who unintentionally took on new identities by becoming memes.
Jo Firestone’s deadpan absurdity in the comedic act “Can You Smell It?” followed Duffy’s self-deprecating humor. Firestone explained how she loves to escape her home without ever walking out the front door by spreading various aromas across her house. Detailed descriptions of scented candles pulled the crowd into the most bizarrely humorous and fictional scenarios imaginable, such as eating a depressing microwaved Lean Cuisine in a remote cabin on an unfortunate retreat.
A more serious tone took over as the live magazine continued. Keri Blakinger’s “The Game” stood out as a piece that uncovered not only the horrible treatment of prisoners on death row in a Texas prison, but also the means by which these prisoners mentally fled their situation. Blakinger makes sure to highlight their humanity by showcasing how they were normal people limited by the torture they endured at the hands of the prison.
The ups and downs of a game of Dungeons and Dragons that the inmates took part in as a means of distraction left not a dry eye in the house, exposing the brutality of confinement in the United States and the humanity of those imprisoned for the rest of their lives.
While the penultimate act of the “Escape” issue felt overlong, it seamlessly intertwined stories of departure between and among marginalized groups in the United States, featuring author Sarah Kay, who explained her grandmother’s choice to become a teacher on a Native American reservation in North Dakota after being released from a Japanese internment camp.
This piece documented history and captured the audience’s heart, supplemented with both photographs of the reservation and animations that followed the grandmother on her journey from one place of captivity to another.
The theme of escape deeply permeated every single work presented throughout the show and made this issue of the Pop-Up Magazine an impressive addition to the live magazine format.
Pop-Up Magazine presented a well curated selection of engaging performances through their “Escape” issue, offering the audience at the Lincoln Theatre a chance to leave the world behind as distinct contributors shared their work, which ranged from playful to painful.