A ‘magazine’ will come to life on Variety Playhouse’s stage

Of all the great contributions modern technology has made to society — GPS means no one gets lost anymore, you can stream “Game of Thrones” on your phone in the bathroom — it does have one obvious drawback:

Newborn babies have better attention spans than most of us do now. Especially when it comes to reading.

(Right now, you’ve likely stopped reading and are instead Googling, “Can newborn babies really read?” Which only goes to prove the aforementioned point.)

That's where Pop-Up Magazinecomes in. And refuses to let go for several hours.

"There are very few things now that will make us put away our phones and other devices," said Anita Badejo, producer of the California-based "live magazine," in which stories are told onstage, often accompanied by visuals projected onto a large screen (think: the articles and photos that appear in a print magazine). Making its Atlanta debut on Sunday night at Variety Playhouseas part of its Winter Edition tour, Pop-Up Magazine, Badejo added, "is intended to make you put all that aside and just be present."

Seriously, you have to be present. In what qualifies either as (take your pick) heresy or an "about damned time" move, Pop-Up Magazine's one-night-only shows aren't ever recorded or made available for viewing online — not even on Pop-Up's own website (www.popupmagazine.com). The result is a communal event that "only the people sitting in the audience are going to experience and know what happened," Badejo said.

This seven-city tour, which also includes stops in Austin, Texas, and New Orleans as part of Pop-Up’s first real Southern push, essentially features the same lineup, enhanced by a local story in certain cities. Here, an Atlanta area couple will appear on the Variety stage to tell what Badejo describes as “an incredible story about blind dates and relationships that has a pretty incredible twist.”

Additionally, she said, there’ll be a story about voicemail “that kind of goes in a direction people didn’t think”; a “very touching story about old friends,” and another story where “the audience actively decides what happens.” That’s pretty much all we could get out of her, as Pop-Up doesn’t want to reveal too much of its live magazine’s “contents” ahead of time. That “You have to be there” sensibility even extends to the storytellers (the Atlanta couple weren’t made available for an interview), many of them journalism or media types who normally don’t have to be asked twice to tell all.

People like Eric Eddings and Brittany Luse, co-hosts of the popular podcast "The Nod."

“We’re presenting this genre of art and taking you on a journey through it,” Eddings said of their contribution to Sunday’s show. “We call it ‘Black History Art.’”

“It’s compelling,” promised Luse, “but we can’t tell you more than that.”

What the duo can discuss is why they enjoy coming out of the podcast studio — where "The Nod" "tells the stories of black life that don't get told anywhere else" — and venturing onstage for a live five- to seven-minute performance that features visual aids and spontaneous audience interaction at times.

“Every once in a while, we’ll make a reference to a very well-known or exciting person in popular culture and people just want to shout back ‘Wooooooh!’ at us,” Luse said. “With a podcast, you release it and don’t know who’s listening or get any immediate feedback. But on (the Pop-Up) stage, we’ll tell a joke and people will laugh and it’s an instant connection.”

Ideally, that connection keeps right on going. After every Pop-Up Magazine show, cast and audience meet up in the lobby bar (in the rare instances where a theater doesn’t have one, show organizers identify a nearby bar space to act as a stand-in).

“The aftermath of the show is one of the most important experiences overall,” producer Badejo said. “We want people to have the opportunity to come say hi, to ask questions and to let the staff and contributors know what they felt about it.

“The experience doesn’t end when the show ends.”


Pop-Up Magazine, Winter Edition

7:30 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 25 (doors open at 6:30 p.m.). $29. Variety Playhouse, 1099 Euclid Ave. NE, Atlanta. 404-524-7354, www.variety-playhouse.com.