Last month Red Room held its 75th consecutive Stage Time & Wine, the core event that launched the organization six years ago. The Red Room had made a practice of welcoming people, no matter their rank. Over the months as a Red Roomer, I’ve watched first time attendees return and become regulars. The Red Room has, undoubtedly, sustained a social enterprise and built a community through this practice.
Cathy Hsu came to Red Room for the first time last year and has returned several times to sing and listen. Listeners welcomed her each time. Irene first visited the Red Room some months ago with a keyboard. She had just begun teaching herself to play and she told the audience she hoped they could accept her mistakes. She, of course, received the full attention and warm applause every performer when she finished. This month she returned to share her progress. She’d grown so much in the last few months and she revealed that she’d found “true happiness” in the piano, and the community, after a break up.
Vanessa, another returnee, shared a deeply personal poem about overcoming insecurity and internalized misogyny. “You are a human being, you are not born to please,” she read, in the crowd several audience members nodded. Other familiar faces stood and shared. Alex Schmoyer read more poetry, as did Emily Loftis who shared a poem on South Korea. Alton Thompson, a fixture of Red room Radio Redux stood to read pieces he had chosen. Vicky Chen sang a new song and Rose Goossen, fondly known as the Red Room Angel for the music she shares, stood up to praise her. When one pair of performers forgot the words to the song, we invited them back on and clapped with them.
As I watched the performances, I observed audience’s reaction, as I always do. Some sat still, focusing intensely while others clapped softly to themselves; some sang along with songs they knew while others bounced silently with friends. In the front corner, near the velvety red and gold chairs, a group of girls sat talking amongst themselves. They had only met each other that night, but they had become fast friends. The evening progressed through a healthy mix of regular Red roomers and new performers. One, in particular, shared that she felt worried when she’d first walked in, alone and signed her name on the performance list. “I was alone,” she told me after the event. “but people were so kind. They came to speak to me [and] I felt that I knew everyone there. I fell in love with Red Room.”
It is this kindness and welcoming spirit that transforms what begins as a small room filled with strangers to one with friends. At the very beginning of the night, as attendees settled onto the red carpets, Manav Mehta, the MC, introduced an important, oft unnoticed element of Red Room: the volunteers. Not only do they attend and participate in Red Room events, but they ensure the Red Room succeeds. They have sustained the community from its inception and we are grateful for their hard work dedication. Like any of the new performers at the 75th Stage Time & Wine, or even the ones who’ve been on the stage before, our volunteers started with a bottle of wine and a room full of strangers who decided to support one another. It’s this support and willingness for camaraderie that has made Red Room an enduring and thriving community in Taipei.
Leah List is a recent graduate of the University of Michigan’s Political Science and International Studies program. She is an aspiring writer, researcher, human rights advocate and a believer in the importance of storytelling. She currently resides in Tianmu. In her free time, she can be found at the Red Room where she volunteers.