‘ESPN: The Magazine’ Pops Up in a Play

San Francisco-based journalist Doug McGray puts on a show

The ritual of reading a magazine—holding it, folding it, taking it with you—is key to their enduring appeal. But last Wednesday, NYU sold out its 860-seat Skirball Center for the latest in the Pop-Up Magazine series: the one-night-only “performance” of a magazine.

The show, a live performance inspired by ESPN: The Magazine,  was created by San Francisco-based journalist Doug McGray, who came up with the concept with some fellow journalist friends. The 90-minute event had an open-mic-night feel. “It’s unrehearsed, it’s live, and we don’t photograph it,” McGray informed the audience as the lights dimmed. Following the magazine format, there were 10 front-of-book style acts, some humorous and service-y, followed by 14 “features,” with video, photos, and images. Interest in sports was helpful but not necessary.

It’s hard to see how one-night, no-frills productions could save a struggling industry. But Gary Belsky, ESPN’s editor-in-chief, immediately agreed to fund the show. “Literally, after about 15 minutes, we said, ‘Oh yeah, this is going to work.’”