‘red room, all grown-up’…Apelles Johnson

Aside was a new experience to me. I feel as though I am a regular red roomer, but aside felt different. Before the show started, one woman described Aside as “red room, all grown-up”. I wrestled with this definition for some time. I hated the idea of Aside being the “high end” red room, or the red room for “us”. This mentality was what I had searched a long time to escape, and I found an escape from this in Red Room’s personability. I didn’t like the idea of it being a separate event where only the high-end people were invited.

But then the shows started. And Red Room did not let me down.

Aside soon showed itself to be a space where people were pushed to engage yet it was not the engagement of the usual stage time and wine. Manav was insistent on people speaking with the performers, and some of the more regular red-roomers egged the questions along. It then becomes a marvelous space for people to feel comfortable with “performers” and humanized us in a way that breaks down the barriers between the stage and the audience. It allowed me to be seen as a poet and then offered an opportunity to talk with a poet. And a black poet no less. If stage time and wine is like high school, then Aside is like college. Its a place where you are in the room with a professional and allowed to learn from their experiences as you build your own future. This, I discovered, is what was meant by the saying “red room, all grown-up.”

Apelles Johnson

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