Saturday night’s show ended with filmmaker Cecilia Aldarondo’s story of a man she’d had a raging crush on in high school but who barely knew she existed, culminating with her sitting down with him 20 years later and reading him a poem that she wrote him. Aldarondo’s willingness to revisit the depths of her lonely, awkward teenage years and reflect on her growth and maturation made for a rather poignant ending when her husband joined her onstage. The fact that no Pop-Up Magazine show is recorded lends an ephemeral, fleeting quality to the performances which is what live theater should be all about. Audiences walk out knowing they’ve witnessed something special, something they won’t be able to revisit later on YouTube. The only way you can relive it is to talk about it with others who were there with you — and that’s the purpose of any magazine, no matter the medium. Pop-Up Magazine is a project that started in 2009 as a side hobby of Douglas McGray, Lauren Smith, Derek Fagerstrom, Evan Ratliff and Maili Holiman. They wanted to find a way to bring together people from various artistic disciplines to tell stories in unconventional ways. The first show was at a small-scale theater of around 300 seats in San Francisco; since then, their audience has tripled and grown into a full-scale collaboration between people from all walks of life: writers, radio producers, photographers, filmmakers and illustrators. The stories that the guests tell strike just the right balance between lighthearted and serious, entertaining and informative. That night, for example, Mexican American filmmaker Isabel Castro told the story of Scott Warren, who was arrested and put on trial for helping illegal immigrants cross the border, augmented with documentary footage she had captured while visiting the town of Ajo, Ariz. She was immediately followed by comedian Catherine Cohen, who dazzled onstage in a sequin dress and knee-high boots, belting out a dramatic cabaret performance that begged Urban Outfitters and Brandy Melville to make clothes in her size so that they could just “take her money.” There was a buzz in the air Saturday night as artsy, creative types — clad in glasses, mustard cardigans and chukka boots — gathered at The Theatre at Ace Hotel for Pop-Up Magazine’s Winter 2020 issue. As advertised in the program, it was a night filled with “cabaret, candles, crushes, dumpster diving, soap operas, small talk, town halls, homecomings, new jobs, and more!” Many of the performers opt to tell personal stories from the heart. Artist Diana Markosian hired actors to recreate her turbulent childhood in Russia and Santa Barbara; rapper Jinho “The Piper” Ferreira ruminated on his time as a member of the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office; artist and filmmaker Jon-Sesrie Goff delved into the deep, layered history of a plot of land in South Carolina he would one day inherit; and painter Esther Pearl Watson animated her own art to tell the story of her dad’s obsession with building a UFO, with beautiful abstract brushstrokes rendering the neighborhood in Texas where she grew up. Pop-Up Magazine’s executive editor Anita Badejo (left) and producer Anna Martin (right) kick off the live magazine’s Winter 2020 issue at The Theatre at Ace Hotel Saturday night. (Photo courtesy of Erin Brethauer) But there is plenty of playful merriment to lighten the mood as well. Illustrator Liana Finck, who regularly contributes cartoons to The New Yorker, presented a short animated video exploring the disparities between what people say and what they really mean — a premise rich in humor. A story written by comedian Jo Firestone, who, unfortunately, was sick at home and unable to perform, was performed by podcast host Rose Eveleth with grace and aplomb. Eveleth instilled her story, about the power of scented candles to instantly transport you to a specific moment in time, with just the right amount of fun and whimsy. In a typical Pop-Up Magazine show, a series of guests perform new, mostly reported stories, accompanied by videos or animations and a live original score courtesy of Magik*Magik Orchestra. After the show, performers and audience members are encouraged to mingle and rub elbows. Recording is strictly prohibited; unlike most shows nowadays that are filmed for posterity and later posted online, not a single Pop-Up Magazine show is ever documented, so if you miss it, you miss it. Past contributors have included author Michael Pollan, filmmaker Ava DuVernay, comedian Kumail Nanjiani and chef Samin Nosrat.