Stagetime & Juice:
Stage Time and Juice is held only once every two months. In the past 4 months (3 Juices) we’ve been in the rather amusing position of seeing our performance area double in size, moving from the drapery enclosed confines of our Da An Road Aveda Learning Kitchen location to the high-ceilinged, brightly lit space of The Library at the Taipei Air Force Innovation Base. I still remember last year when the kids were momentarily transplanted from The Learning Kitchen to HuaShan Cultural Park for the 5th anniversary. Things didn’t go smoothly and I was worried about how the kids would react to the larger space. Oddly enough, this year I took our continual spatial expansion in a stride.
Part of the reason may be due to the fact that our little performers are expanding spatially too. Not only are the ones who got on the stage at the very inception of Juice experiencing physical growth spurts, but they are also accumulating life experience, some of it on the stage of the Red Room. When we started three years ago, we didn’t expect much and were happy to see that kids were just willing to get on the stage. At this moment I can feel that we have finally reached an important turning point: the young veteran performers are at a point of awareness where they can start to ask the question, “Now that I have this platform, where can I take it?”
One high school student invited members of his school choir to perform. Another did a duet with her tiny sibling, both of them wearing matching outfits. One boy attempted his first vocal solo (and ended up finishing without background music due to a technical failure, but the audience immediately cheered and clapped him along!) Those who usually sang, presented a skit. A little girl read poems, and her brother performed a couple of magic tricks. A puppeteer tried out a new and larger puppet that she had never performed with before.
One mom approached me after her kids’ performances and mentioned that the whole family felt a little frustrated that things had not gone the way they planned. I told her that I hoped her kids would hang in there and keep coming back and trying to experiment with their performance. Juice is not about product, but rather about process. The show grows, the kids grow, even the grownups that come and help run an activity or perform are part of the effort to achieve something that they hadn’t done before. Jet Wu, who led the animation activity, had to push himself and his staff to produce something that could engage a live audience. It required a lot of rethinking about how he usually did animation workshops. Arsene the Magician has evolved over the years from routines prepared to upbeat music, to actually calling up volunteers on the stage and interacting with them. For the first time at our anniversary show, The Awesome Playgroup News left the printed format, and turned its contents into an engaging game.
The theme of our anniversary show was “Illusions and Obfuscations” but what we saw unfolding before us was no mirage. We saw a whole spectrum of performers, from struggling beginners to seasoned professionals, all working together on the same stage to achieve the same goal: positivity, generosity, and happiness.
I would like to remind everyone that Stage Time and Juice is a gift that has been given to us by The Red Room. We bring ourselves, we bring juice and snacks (if we remember), we bring our listening ears and our hearts. We bring our personal aspirations and ambitions, or something that we want to share. Don’t come here expecting to be entertained. Come here because you want to be an active part of our international village that creates good and positive things in the world!
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In the early hours of the twenty-first, we stood across the street mumbling drowsy greetings and admiring the banner adorning the entrance of the TAF compound. Even from a distance its vibrant colors and characters captured our attention. Ten minutes later we gathered under the festival tents, decidedly more lively after consuming coffee and dan bing, and watched the sky drop its first tentative drops of the day. “Oh dear,” one dismayed volunteer murmured. Another volunteer quickly replied that “[it’d] be good luck.”. “Don’t you know rain on a festival day is good luck?” she asked us with a grin.Rain has become something of a traditional part of Red Room’s anniversaries; in fact, not a single Red Room anniversary has been without it. Though rain can be a nuisance, it is perhaps a fitting symbol of Red Room’s rebirth.
In a traditional sense, rain has always symbolized revival; rain transforms the land through nourishing the soil. Similarly, Red Room has transformed through finding new soil. Since moving to the TAF, Red Room has introduced a myriad of events and activities for the community. In short, Red Room’s rebirth has ushered a new era, enabling Red Roomers to attain new heights in expressing creativity. This idea of rebirth was well captured during Red Room’s anniversary, which proudly presented some of the community’s new initiatives including a first glimpse at plays written and performed by members of the Red Room community. When Red Roomers weren’t enjoying performances, they were able to peruse the walls which were adorned with featured art by J.J. Chen and Ted Pigott from Red Room’s second Visual Dialogues.
Yet, Red Room’s expansion and rebirth has not drastically eroded the traditions Red Roomers value most. The return of rain on November 21st also reminded many Red Roomers of the aspects they love most about the community. For as the sky drizzled, community members gathered, laughed and shared. During Stage Time & Juice, the rain did not hinder the imaginations of Juicers as they fought agents of destruction, or dazzled audiences with magic. Indeed, it did not prevent them from embarking on great adventures on the grounds, imaginary sword and cape in hand. As the day cooled, Red Roomers could again gather inside to listen to rich stories by performers from Red Room Radio Redux’s Read Aloud.
Outside, Red Roomers were treated to a mix of sounds from musicians whose sound ranged from classic rock, to blues, to traditional aboriginal. Crowds gathered in front of the colorful stage, hands cupping a warm cup of 臺Walla, Red Room Chai from R & D Lab, or a beer from Bloch Brewing Company. They browsed artisan booths holding a sandwich from Sprout or Belgian fries from Belga, and watched new and old Red Room musicians perform.
To memorialize the day, artists sketched Red Roomers, photographers snapped candids and, for the braver Red Roomers, artists offered free slow poke tattoos. Red Roomers could also transform themselves with anything from haircuts and metallic body art to the opportunity to learn about and dedicate themselves to important social issues. Of course there were plenty of opportunities to make less tangible memories. Red Room offered countless opportunities to get involved. Upstairs and downstairs, Red Roomers could participate in art whether through painting on a scroll, leaving their handprint on a canvas or speaking on community and compassion.
As the day drew to an end, and the sky exchanged the sun for the stars, performers exchanged the stage for the Red Roomfloor. The members of Mafana and Faloco gathered beneath the stairs to continue celebrating. Sitting in a circle, they sang with ebullient enthusiasm, swaying and grinning; strumming and beating. Their joy was so irresistible that other Red Roomers soon joined in. Meanwhile, other performers moved inside to avoid the rain, exchanging a public performance for a more intimate one. Lights reflected warmly off the gathered crowd who watched transfixed as Valentin Le Chat and La Gitanita seamlessly merged different styles of physical art.
The crowds did not dissipate, even as the night cooled. Instead, Red Roomers did what they do best. They provided a platform for artists and community members to express themselves creatively. They reveled in each other’s triumphs and talents and embraced each other’s goals and initiatives. The Renaissance Festival offered Red Roomers the opportunity to connect with six years of memories and renew their keenness to contribute to communities through art and volunteerism. Red Room is sustained by its community members’ passion and compassion and the anniversary was a wonderful continuation and expansion of those virtues.
Editor, Red Room News
We Are Vessels
We are hungover
from Soju, the foreigner bars in
Sokcho, lank bodies on the bus
to Daecheong Peak, when you pick at
nicotine stains under my fingernails
say hey d’you ever think about what the
atoms we’re made of once made up
before we were here? And I’m thinking of your
North Carolina dirty in my cuticles, the woman
nodding waygookein across the aisle
the Korean word for foreigner precise as the oral pucker
of her molar-less mouth. Ask me again,
I’ll measure out molecules from her baby teeth
in the insect twitching there green against glass.
This is the newness of a window. These, our bodies,
asleep every night on different floors without bedsheets,
carrying the thin breath of bored locals and fumbling
tourists as we travel. Anyoung-haseyo.
bow low like the pumpkin flowers
heavy-headed on their vines but parting their legs,
rubbing roots under cover of mountain soil
it’s the stir of sweat-damp thighs in this East Sea heat,
the frothy tinge of tidal sockets at the cusp of root and riot.
Ask once more, you’re carrying me in your
lungs even as you read this, understand me. You are my
crippled yellow of displacement, the dust settling
on Hangeul-scribed bus seats you cannot read.
And I’m licking all the dry edges, sealing every envelope
with salt-chapped lips,
thick spit like steam that was here
in the beginning.
This piece was inspired by what I experienced while living in my first home abroad. I was living in the Northern Province of Gangwon-Do, South Korea, in a small village near the sea. Though South Korea is among one of the world’s most homogeneous cultures, living in such a rural area exaggerated the divide between locals and foreigners even more. I was one of the two foreigners in my area of fishermen and farmers, quite isolated from the nearest city, and far from the closest bus station, and supermarket.
Yet, even while I was often treated as being markedly different, and at times felt markedly different, I also experienced great moments of community and inclusiveness with the families in my village, passing travelers, and other expats. This dichotomy between being a part of while also apart from became central to my life there; this poem attempts to capture those moments of flux and balance.
Emily Loftis is from the Midwest in the US, now based in Taipei working as an English Writer/Editor.