Aside 5, a magical evening, March 2014

As I sat here contemplating about Aside 5, I realized that the definition of the title changed for me this time around. The last Aside event was simply to set “aside” the more free-spirited people and magnify my hopes in becoming one of them in the future. But in Aside 5, I felt as if the purpose of the event was, for me, to push “aside” all my expectations and stereotypes I had developed in my mind and be exposed, once more, to the necessary facets of life. It was as if I was to experience a rebirth and see the world for the first time again.

The mini-capsule of renaissance started with Josh Drye, a musician from North Carolina. When Drye came on to the stage, he simply took out his guitar and spoke a bit about the fundamentals of his music. He said that in his home region, they like to use one basic chord as the background chord. After this brief introduction, he quickly began to perform. He sang songs he composed and songs by other people—all of them were the songs of the Appalachians, best known as bluegrass. But even though they were all very pleasing to the ear, I still craved the sound of the banjo. In my mind, bluegrass just did not make sense without the sound of the banjo. It is no wonder why babies cry when they are pulled out of their mommy’s belly; the frustration at the unfamiliarity of their surroundings is so overwhelming that the only rational response is to lash out and cry.

I was already screaming like a maniac inside (“Where the heck is the banjo?!”) when comedian/storyteller, Charlie Storrar, confided in the audience, “I went through a process of rebirth myself.” It was as if Storrar’s message was directed at me. For a second, I saw a halo light up above Storrar’s head. But then, he said, “I am a Reborn Sinner.” And poof, there goes the halo. Before Storrar became the man he is today, he was Celibate Charlie. Storrar was trying to woo a girl with a box of cheap chocolates at fifteen. And to please her even more, he followed her into her Christian faith—but the moment he stepped foot inside the church, he decided to fall in love with Jesus instead.

Storrar loved being a Christian, but he also admitted that dedicating himself to God did not help him get over his need to “fill that void” and he constantly needed to patch it up “with his right hand.” And so at around the age of thirty, he decided to leave the Christian faith and finally will himself to sin again. Storrar’s story sounded too much like a bad joke to be true—“a British walks into a church with a box of cheap chocolates in attempt to seduce a girl, but was, instead, seduced by Jesus the man Himself.” All that is missing here is a rabbi.

I was having difficulty wrapping my head around the concept of being seduced by something abstract and conservative when Tina Ma, the Red Room Muse, walked in gracefully with a gu zheng and helped to demonstrate this seduction right away. The beginning of Ma’s music was very meditative. But as she began to pepper in a narrative about spring—“the mating season,” all one could think about was “sex.” It was as if Ma had grinded up all the Viagra she could find in the drug stores and just decided to sprinkle all the love dust onto the Red Roomers while casually playing her gu zheng.

Tina Ma’s performance was very creative, but I would have to say nothing could be more creative than what the Radio Redux group had to bring us that night at Aside 5. The Red Room Radio Redux group (R4) had always presented spectacular dramas in the past. But this time, the writer of R4 transformed T. S. Eliot’s poem “Wasteland” into drama form. Four actors—Marc Anthony, Adrianna Smela, Charlie Storrar, and Pat Woods—whispered, and shouted, and danced, and raged throughout the entire poem. R4’s mission is to introduce Western canon to its audience; not only have they done a great job this time, they have changed my perception about how a poem should be read. By having four people act out “Wasteland,” the R4 group had successfully portrayed the diverse themes of confusion and personas in the poem.

R4, Tina Ma, Charlie Storrar, and Josh Drye—seeing these four amazing artists at Aside 5 was like seeing a big yellow submarine in a bottle. And after this thought came to my head, I had one final revelation. I am very thankful that I had discovered the Red Room; because of the Red Room, I would not have to travel very far to see the world, the world would all be there with me in this one cozy space.

Wendy Wan Yi Chen
Class of 2014
Department of Foreign Languages and Literature National Taiwan University

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