There is no predicting how a Stage Time and Juice show will come together. We usually start by throwing around themes that have to do with the month. Alliteration is always a plus. Sometimes we will approach someone to do some sort of activity or performance within the show, and we will build around that. The theming is not always central to the event, but on the occasion where the separate participants coalesce around it, magic begins to take place.
Let’s not feign total innocence with the selection of last month’s theme of “The March Hare”: we knew that Ruth Landowne Giordano had staged the Reader’s Theater production of “A Mad Tea Party,” Chapter 7 from Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland in the past. We had a sneaky feeling that if we dangled the title in front of her, she wouldn’t allow this opportunity to slide by. As it turns out, not only was Ruth game to revive it, but she wanted to update it with a twist: by incorporating some Juicers as readers. As she explained, “I think the addition of the children will make the production quite sweet.”
Once the decision of hosting a mad tea party had been set, we transformed the event into a British high tea by serving up scones made from KP Kitchen’s wonderful mix, decked out with clotted cream and jam. We also provided “Drink-Me” punch, a concoction whose recipe is known only to the alchemists of the Red Room. Unfortunately, the punch was a grand failure: none of the Juicers changed their shapes or sizes, although it may have had some contribution to transforming some of the guests into performers.
A few weeks before the event, we received a most unusual request: a mother was wondering whether she could hold a birthday party celebration at Juice. This gave us pause: we had never thought to combine our stage event with a private celebration. On the other hand, the temptation of holding a real birthday party within a staged tea party was too much of a temptation to resist. The Mad Hatter and the March Hare would have appreciated the flipping inside out of the situation. Once we had acquiesced, mom Nomita signed off with the curious remark: “I like this theme.”
It turns out she is an artist who sculpts in cake and fondant: she showed up with a remarkable stacked tower of a cake, covered with Alice in Wonderland motifs. It took her two days to shape and paint it. Needless to say, the Juicers demolished it in minutes. Unfortunately, that’s the way it goes with us: we know a good thing when we see it, and we consume it.
The show itself began with our open mic lineup. There were many first-time visitors on the stage, who tenuously shared poems and jokes. One boy performed a spectacular Indian dance, complete with cool dude sunglasses. Two siblings introduced a game, and invited audience members up on the stage to get slapped on the hand. Another sang a sad love ballad while she played the guitar. One girl played a musical piece on the keyboard.
Constance Woods tried to teach us how to dance the Pata-Pata in five minutes. Due to our failure to fully grasp the subtleties of her performance, she has agreed to return and get us all wash wiping and hopping in proper South African form in May.
The show ended with the performance of “A Mad Tea Party.” We were amazed at how polished the junior Juicers looked next to their talented R4 counterparts.
There is a link to the YouTube of the entire “A Mad Tea Party” performance and some footage and photos of this special event on our Stage Time and Juice Facebook page. Although it’s nice to look at pictures to try to understand what is going on, we heartily recommend that you to come to our events in person to experience for yourself the indescribable.
And that’s what you missed at Stage Time and Juice!
Stage Time and Juice XXI kicked off 2017 with the theme of storytelling. Various stories, true and fictional, took the Juicers up, down, and around the bend.
Nicole and Carol began the show with a retelling of the acidic encounter between a lemon and a lime. The exchange led one of the fruits to cross the road.
Once the sour mood had cleared the air, high schooler Valen shared her experience as a junior representative of Taiwan. This exchange apparently led her to cross the Atlantic in a pair of 10 cm heels.
Sensing the high spirits, overtone singer Mark van Tongeren led the Juicers on a roller coaster exploration of the musical tones that one hears when one travels up and down the vowel sounds.
Charlotte and Bea described life from the perspective of a book.
Brian then sent us all into the cutting edge of the present with his science fiction novel, Shift, with Whitney reading.
To reground us, cookies and hot cocoa were dispensed during the break by Betsy the Bar.
After the break, Jennifer advised us that if you can’t take the guitar, then learn the ukulele! (Red Roomers apparently will have a chance to do so in March! Shhhhh!) She then sang a sunny song.
Kai played a couple of pensive tunes on the keyboard.
Nicole and Julian encouraged us all to lighten up and dance.
And then, to the delight of the audience, Ruth and the Aesop’s Fables troupe took the stage, presenting us with words of wisdom for the new year. Tales presented: The Tortoise and the Hare, The Little Red Hen, The Fox and the Grapes, Two Travelers and a Bear, and A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing. The children played multiple parts with lots of giggles and smiles, and ridiculous props. Jonah’s performance of a tree came across as quite wooden.
And that’s what you missed at Stage Time and Juice!
Ruth Landowne Giordano recently shared with us her impressions about leading the 5-week workshop to produce “Aesop’s Fables,” the second dramatic collaboration between Red Room Radio Redux and Stage Time and Juice. (The first one, “Jack and the Beanstalk” was presented at the anniversary celebrations just this past November.)
Ruth traditionally works with an adult cast to produce radio adaptations of classic literary tales such as “Dracula,” “Treasure Island,” and “A Christmas Carol.” She believes storytelling is an important way to keep alive certain aspects of culture, and to also teach valuable lessons. Her decision to involve children in the storytelling was because “children can bring a lot of imagination and energy to the performance.”
This is the first time she has worked with a bi-lingual group of children, with varying levels of proficiency in the English language. She selected Aesop’s tales and “The Little Red Hen” because she assumed that the children would have some degree of familiarity with these stories. Some of the children felt a little intimidated with speaking out in a less familiar language. Ruth worked around this by teaching them to express the story through body movements and sounds other than words. “All around I wanted it to be a playful time.” She hopes that the exercises that she took them through will open up alternatives to the more “reticent” kids.
When asked what she might do differently next time, she said she would not hold the workshop over such an extended period of time (five weeks with a two-week break for Christmas in between) because precious momentum is lost. She would also think more about how she can reach out to the children who might have confidence issues, working around her own pressure to meet a performance deadline.
Happily, Ruth is already dreaming about what the next production might be. Make sure you follow us on the Stage Time and Juice Facebook page, so that you don’t miss the next development! https://www.facebook.com/redroomjuice/
by Carol Yao
To celebrate the Red Room’s seventh anniversary, and to mark the twentieth Stage Time and Juice, the creative team put together a lineup that would combine elements both new and old. For those unfamiliar with our history, Stage Time and Juice was created as a junior version of Stage Time and Wine, the Red Room’s famous open mic show that takes place on the third Saturday of every month. Juice was intended to serve as an incubation forum to help children and teenagers achieve the expressiveness and confidence necessary to evolve into Stage Time and Wine performers. It seemed an ambitious undertaking, one that the founding parents involved were not sure could be achieved.
Three years later, Stage Time and Juice seems to have made its mark: we now have a small but growing group of steady performers who have been bitten by the performance bug. For the anniversary, we reached out to these “Juicers” personally and asked whether they would be brave enough to share something with the anticipated larger audience. The response was enthusiastic: Michael, Maggie, Sarah, and Elisa would appear as an ensemble, the siblings Kanoa and Kailer would share a song, Nicole would perform with her guitar, Jayde and Alyssa would appear for the first time playing the ukulele, and Zosia would read something. The Margo twins were newcomers who joined in at the last minute, declaring their intention to play a few songs on the keyboard. This was the first time the Juicers performed on the unfamiliar elevated stage in a tent, and we did receive some feedback about nerves and unexpected challenges, but all in all it was agreed to be a rewarding experience for both performers and audience alike. First time attendees were impressed by the level of talent, and a comment we often heard repeated was
“I can’t believe that we waited until NOW to come!”
Apart from the superb lineup for open mic, we also attained a special milestone this November: Juicer Jayde decided that she would give being an emcee a try. Her mom frequently emcees The Stage Time and Juice show: what could possibly go wrong? Stage jitters, it turns out. Jayde admits that she was “dying” from nervousness when she took the mic, but she discovered something: “It was easier than I expected, because once I got up there I felt that people were not criticizing me and I felt accepted.”
Usually, for a Stage Time and Juice show, apart from the open mic, we also invite a few adult performers to share something with the audience.
Arsene, the Dream Magician, materialized of his own accord with his usual greeting: “Long time no see!” He had just returned from a mysterious assignment in Hong Kong where he had been working as a consultant on a magic show. The Dream Magician delighted the guests with several “classic modern” tricks, one in particular done first in slow motion and then speeding it up, challenging the audience to guess how an egg can be made to present itself out of thin air. Juxtaposed with this was the magic act of Burke Giordano, whom we became acquainted with last year as he coaxed balloons into fanciful shapes. Taking center stage armed with only a pair of oversized spectacles, a briefcase, and a whistle, Burke treated the children to a whimsical performance, referencing his favorite comedians: the Marx Brothers, Charlie Chaplin, and Buster Keaton.
Burke’s magical act was followed by the ever-ebullient Sue DeSimone, our Stage Time and Juice rock diva, who led the audience in a sing-along of “This Little Light of Mine” and “Sing,” accompanied by her guitarist friend, Vincenzo Cuccia.
We end our narrative with a description of the opening number of the show, the dramatic reading of Jack and the Beanstalk, accompanied by sound effects. Keeping in mind that this might be the first time that young audience members encountered a radio play, there was first a brief introduction about sound effects, read in English (Ruth) and in Mandarin (Ashish) followed by a training session where the audience was coached to produce sound effects on cue. The story was then read by Carol, Zosia, Julian, and Nicole. The youngest of the crew, Jessie, assisted Ruth with the sound effects table. Here’s the spoiler: at the end of the story, Jack managed to escape from the giant’s castle with the silver and chopped down the beanstalk. The beanstalk fell with a huge crash, and the audience was handsomely rewarded for their participation.
After the show, the Juicers were turned loose to paint the streets with flowery, geometric rangoli forms, which according to Indian tradition can attract good luck. Creating rangoli has now become one of our Stage Time and Juice signature activities. Despite the heat, the artists worked enthusiastically, leaving the Air Force Base covered with an elaborate hand-painted carpet to greet the guests coming for the evening’s entertainment.
See more photos on our flickr album.
By Carol Yao
Stage Time & Juice Coordinator