The Well of Words
Memories from ninety-nine Stage Time & Wines
On the 16th June, Red Room will host its 100th Stage Time & Wine. This milestone represents over eight years of events hosted by Red Room, an ever-growing community, and an ever-stronger ‘culture of listening’. If you have been to Red Room before, it is likely you have felt the special kind of energy that resonates from the walls. If you haven’t visited Red Room yet, the 100th Stage Time & Wine may be the perfect opportunity for you to feel it for yourself.
“Stage Time & Wine is a build-your-own event where each participant is invited to contribute to the creation of the evening”
Ayesha Mehta, Red Room Co-founder
Anything can be shared within the Red Room: voices, stories, poems, songs, instruments, dances, ideas, memories, sounds, murmurs, silence. At the heart of Red Room is a ‘culture of listening’, so I believe it would most appropriate if we share the words of others in this article. I have rummaged in the Red Room archives and unearthed memories, personal experiences and voices from ninety-nine Stage Time & Wines.
In the beginning: an idea
Red Room was born from words. It all began with a conversation between Ayesha Mehta and Ping Chu when a fortuitous rainshower caused their paths to cross in Dulan, Taidung in 2009. This conversation planted a seed, which released its roots into the Taipei artistic community and began uniting individuals with a common passion.
“In this web-connected world we live in today, we have stopped practicing deep listening and are losing the human connection on the personal level. We are busy doing, not being. Being allows us to grow and feel the bliss we are all capable of experiencing.”
This is the vision that Ayesha shared with Ping. Her dream of creating a ‘listening space’ was the building block upon which Red Room could grow. Ayesha’s seedling of an idea sparked an interest and inspired others. Before long, a group of friends gathered to plan an event where participants could express themselves freely and listen deeply to each other. Ayesha’s brother, Manav, came up with the name ‘Stage Time & Wine’.
The first Stage Time & Wine took place in the Learning Kitchen. As Roma Mehta described it, the friends “put things together”; they experimented with the space, hung up shawls as stage curtains, created a ‘bar’ through each sharing what they had, and then hoped people would come along to enjoy the evening. Nobody could have predicted that the event would take off in the way it did.
“We didn’t really plan for Red Room to be what it’s become. It’s grown every year. We definitely didn’t know when we were sitting around the table what Red Room would become.” (Charles Haines’ memory of Red Room’s creation)
“The first Stage Time & Wine event was filled with laughter, raucousness, honesty and a room full of strangers entering into intimacy and giving towards each other.” (Ayesha Mehta)
Words of Red Roomers: what does Red Room mean to you?
“It’s the shaky rushy feeling that washes over me when I step up to the microphone.” (Rose Goossen)
“We’ll embrace it, applaud it and dream with it when the night ends.” (Leah List)
“When we were introduced to Red Room, it was like a door opened… to myself.” (Ruth Landowne Giordano)
“The act of sharing my work and listening to others recharged my battery every month.” (Daniel Black)
“If we can make people feel, if we can be REAL, even for a moment, by giving form to our creativity then we have achieved something.” (Trevor Trebotski Tortomasi)
“At the core, it is about restoring the lost spoken word and creative expression, sharing, and listening.”
(Ping Chu, Red Room Co-Founder)
“The word artist holds no boundaries, it’s not marked by a mustache or a hat…”
(Extract from a Red Room poem by Manav Mehta)
Constance Woods’ memory of a young woman sharing a love letter at Stage Time and Wine: “A frisson of a moment sparkled through the room.”
Emily Loftis’ memory of painting Ping’s shirt in an interactive stage time performance: “You don’t have to be an artist to understand the simple pleasure of spreading paint over canvas. But there was something more to this experience as well. Ping was doing exactly what Red Room offers everyone who comes through its doors: an invitation to leave your mark.”
Beyond the four walls: Red Room’s social impact
Like a pebble thrown into a pond, Red Room has stirred up a rippling effect across the Taipei artistic community. Conversations happen in the Red Room. We feed off each others’ energy and inspire one another to take our ambitions further. We collaborate, form bands, put on plays, create art together.
“Together we did create a community or a tribe of like minded people who want to participate in something bigger than themselves.”
Red Room has provided a platform for young artists to experiment, find their unique style and put their work out there. “They help promote the young artists who otherwise would probably have difficulties doing so… We support one another. It’s all about contributing to the community.”
Stepping into the Red Room is also the beginning of an individual, internal journey; we are dared to take risks and to be real. “Red Room is mesmerizing. Now I can dream bigger, feel better and aim higher than before.” (Tina Ma)
What surprises will the 100th Stage Time & Wine have instore for us? The Red Room team have an ambitious aim to involve 100 performers for the 100th gathering… and there will surely be 100 glasses of wine to accompany! Gather with us and share this precious moment, cherish the open platform for expression, and add your voice to the well of words.
Charles Haines, Master of Cups, Artist and dedicated Red Roomer, shares his memory of the Red Room’s creation:
Being part of the first days of Red Room was pretty amazing. It started sitting around a table at Roma’s house. Ayesha, who is the co-founder of Red Room, presented us with her idea for the Red Room platform [at that table]. She had traveled to Taidung and she had met Ping Chu there. They got talking about what she wanted to do, which was create a listening space, and a sharing space. Ping just happened to have a place where we could do this. This partnership, which started during that meeting, led to the creation of the Red Room.
She talked with us about it after that first meeting with Ping. We started throwing around ideas about what we were going to do, and who we were going to invite, and the name of the event. We had the name Red Room, but we wanted a subtitle to give a better- nobody [knew] what Red Room [was], so we needed something to explain [it]. Manav came out of his room and said “Why don’t you call it Stage Time & Wine?” and that was it. He walked back into his room and we didn’t hear from him again. I think he was, like, eighteen at the time. His involvement with the Red Room grew progressively and he used to open each Stage Time & Wine with a poem he wrote.
I wasn’t really very much involved with the organizing of any of the events at that time. I sat in and talked about things, but it was very kind of organic that first one. We were just asking friends to come and play music. At the very first Stage Time & Wine, I worked with Manav at the bar. We had a great time together. I think it was that night that we bonded. I did not know then how much a part of my life he would become and I am so grateful that we worked together at the first Red Room bar.
Since we didn’t know whether it was going to be a onetime thing—one Stagetime & Wine– or six months, or whatever, we didn’t really plan for Red Room to be what it’s become. It’s grown every year. We definitely didn’t know when we were sitting around the table what Red Room would become.
I think, after that first one, a lot of people that were involved were so excited about it. It was their enthusiasm that encouraged Ayesha, and all of us, to do it as a once-a-month event for as long as there was an interest. Ayesha left a few months later and Roma and Manav have run with it and made it what Red Room is today.
14 March 2016
Image: The earliest invitation to Stage Time & Wine, art by Charles Haines.
At the beginning of October, Red Room teamed up with the CBTA (Childhood Brain Tumor Association of Taiwan) for a charity event. Fourteen artists exhibited their work to help the CBTA raise money. Part of the proceeds go to the CBTA, and part go to the artists.
The opening was on October 2nd, 2016, and the lovely Vicky Sun played hopeful and uplifting music to set the mood of the event. Further enhancing the mood were the colors and subject of the paintings themselves. As I looked around the room, happiness filled my heart.felt happiness. To me the event was lighthearted and peaceful considering the cause that was bringing everyone together. I hope others who came feel the same way.
Thank you to everyone who came to the event. Especially, thank you to the patrons who bought paintings and helped to support the cause. Those who made donations also contributed, and we thank you all too.
This show was a wonderful blend of the artists, the space and the association coming together to make a difference.
Our next show will be a reflection of the past seven years to celebrate RR’s anniversary. A visual journey from our humble beginnings to the present. Please join us for the next Visual Dialogues show at the Red Room, and share in Red Room’s story.
by Charles Haines
Stories by the master of mystery and the macabre,
Edgar Allan Poe, will be read aloud and accompanied by sound effects generated live using ordinary household items.
Musical background will further enhance the experience.
THE BLACK CAT, read by Paul Batt
THE TELL-TALE HEART, read by Whitney Sahar
and Poe’s most famous narrative poem THE RAVEN, read by Thomas Bellmore and featuring a special guest artist, Mr. Charles Haines to illustrate the poem as it is being read.
Bar open before, after and at intermission
Your Patronage: 300 NT
Tickets: available at the door OR through ACCUPASS
This performance will be in English.
Red Room at the TAF LIBRARY 2F
# 177, Sec.1, Jianguo S. Rd, Taipei
Charles Haines is a Canadian born sculptor, painter, printmaker and poet who has lived in Taiwan since 2001 and calls Taiwan his home. For over twenty years he has had a passion for painting crows. No matter where he travels people have strong feelings about crows. He likes that. If you ask him he will tell you the he was a crow in a former life and that he has dreams of flying and can still feel the air under his wings.
Email: [email protected]
This last Sunday I had a short but sweet run in with a delightful young vampire in an art gallery. It turns out, her fangs were actually carrot sticks, and they didn’t last for very long before she gobbled them up. As I laughed with her, the sound of a massive drum rumbled off the walls and over the soft background jazz and chattery din of all the other people present. They, like us, had come to support and admire local artists on a Sunday afternoon, and we found ourselves in good company. Fragments of English and Mandarin conversations fluttered throughout the gallery. Everybody seemed to think that a little extra drums action from the corner was a positive thing. Beside the two of us was a small trio of 50-somethings, laughing lightheartedly with a wise kindness in their eyes. In front of us more people, some food, more people, a beautiful hand-crafted bar with beer on tap, and finally, walls full of vibrant, living art.
The paintings were the main event and the space gave priority to their needs, to be sure. Nevertheless, as if to remind everyone that art happens in more ways than one, the bass and piano amp were pushed aside, not packed away. Microphones on stands stood at the ready, and I trust that if anybody had wanted to step up and slam some poetry or belt a solo, it would have been received warmly. The drums got louder and I made a face at Dracula’s daughter and we both giggled, the orange chunks in her mouth threatening to come launching out in full force.
Glancing around the room, I noticed it wasn’t just us; smiles, laughter, and a relaxed openness characterized the exchanges happening all over the gallery. It felt like you would always comfortable to do what you want to do in this space, be it dancing with carrot sticks poking out of your mouth, lounging on the ornate framed bed with your iPad, or simply discussing the particular use of colors on a canvas with a friend you haven’t met yet.
Dope paintings, positive vibes, smooth lighting, endearing people who want to hear your stories as much as they want to tell theirs. As I kicked back and paused to soak it all in, it was just so obvious, so clear to me: this is the kind of thing I want in my life. I want more of this.
And who wouldn’t, I mean really?
It was on the 4th of this month that the Red Room held its first of a series of monthly Visual Dialogues, wherein the work from two artists from different cultures is displayed in a shared space. Kicking off the series were the works of 房耀忠 and Charles Haines, the vast majority of which were paintings on flat canvas. The new space at TAF, which has been filling up with new amenities and practical touches almost daily over the last month since Red Room moved in, felt wonderfully warm with its walls covered in the glowing colors of 房 and Haines. If you’ve been coming to events here recently, you’ll know what I mean when I say the place is different every time you walk in. Today a new fridge, tomorrow a couple dozen new paintings.
The pieces themselves were an absolute delight; both of the artists coupled a brilliantly bold palette of color with dancing, jesting, scowling, and screeching figures, animal and human all at once. Bold lines and clearly-defined shapes.
Charles Haines’s pieces ran a gamut from crowlike harpies moaning against dark skies to skeletal tribal creatures caught mid-scream. All of them juxtaposed definite forms with ambiguous meanings and narratives. Within all his works there lurked a rich darkness that lent the Red Room an atmosphere of dense, bleeding life. Just the perfect scene for our little bouncing vampire.
房耀忠’s bright, popping works provided a perfect foil to the eerie mystery of Haines’s. No less bold with his colors and lines, 房 had all manner of wonky creatures twirling and twisting through his pieces. Cackling horses, guitar kitties, cubist owls, and toothy demons were everywhere you looked, each one a little goofy somehow but no less captivating for it. A penchant for a lighter palette with vivid rainbow colors describes 房’s general aesthetic. Almost cartoonish at times and always playful, his paintings made me fantasize about the bizarre misadventures his characters must have in their bizarre worlds. I felt refreshed.
But of course the best part wasn’t just seeing each artist’s work on a wall. The best part was that the pieces were all mixed together, complimenting each other, breathing life into the space, having, dare I say it, a dialogue. And when you go to the Red Room, you can rest assured that there’s room in that dialogue for you. Room for both music and paintings, for both laughter and blood, for old and new alike.
The Red Room is a space for art in Taipei, which is cool. Like, really cool. But what’s really cool is that it’s also the kind of place where a massive cake accompanied by joyous singing suddenly zooms out of the corner and everyone puts down their (delicious) sangrias to join in a rousing rendition of Happy Birthday. It’s the kind of place where you say to somebody, “Wow, that’s a gorgeous shelving unit,” and they respond with “Yeah, you wanna meet the guy who built it? He’s right over there.” Young and old, native and foreign alike all come together, building an intimate environment in which to share their art. People congregate at this kind of place to hear the voices of others, they come here for community.
Last Sunday I saw some beautiful paintings in a gallery. But what made it so special and so memorable was that I also got to meet a cool photographer, jump across cultural and language barriers with local Taiwanese, sip a cold beer, jam to some beats, and laugh with a vampire.
We love to pour over a detailed painting. We love to sit on the edge of our seats in a theater. We love to get shivers from listening to music. But what’s all that art for with no one to share it with? The Red Room is the kind of place where you’ll come for the art and stay for the people. It’s not about them and their art that you came to see. It’s about the us we can build if we take care to make thoughtful exchange happen.
Word on the street is that these paintings are going to be up for the next month-ish, so if you missed the formal showing, you still got time. The Red Room is nothing if not dynamic, and their new space at TAF is perfectly conducive to a whole host of different events and performances. So come on over! Be yourself, have a drink, participate in art, and meet some new friends. It’s always a chill time and their doors are always open. Huge props to all the labors of love that so many have put into it.
I’m not sure what they have coming up next, but I know that whatever it is, I want it in my life. See you there.
Addison Eng is new to Taipei but no stranger to having a great time with good people doing cool things. Drawn to Taiwan from the U.S. because of his passion for learning Mandarin, he’s currently teaching English and attending as much theater, art, and music stuff as he can. He loves cutting loose on stage and is just thrilled to have the chance to join the Red Room community.