Last month Red Room held its 75th consecutive Stage Time & Wine, the core event that launched the organization six years ago. The Red Room had made a practice of welcoming people, no matter their rank. Over the months as a Red Roomer, I’ve watched first time attendees return and become regulars. The Red Room has, undoubtedly, sustained a social enterprise and built a community through this practice.
Cathy Hsu came to Red Room for the first time last year and has returned several times to sing and listen. Listeners welcomed her each time. Irene first visited the Red Room some months ago with a keyboard. She had just begun teaching herself to play and she told the audience she hoped they could accept her mistakes. She, of course, received the full attention and warm applause every performer when she finished. This month she returned to share her progress. She’d grown so much in the last few months and she revealed that she’d found “true happiness” in the piano, and the community, after a break up.
Vanessa, another returnee, shared a deeply personal poem about overcoming insecurity and internalized misogyny. “You are a human being, you are not born to please,” she read, in the crowd several audience members nodded. Other familiar faces stood and shared. Alex Schmoyer read more poetry, as did Emily Loftis who shared a poem on South Korea. Alton Thompson, a fixture of Red room Radio Redux stood to read pieces he had chosen. Vicky Chen sang a new song and Rose Goossen, fondly known as the Red Room Angel for the music she shares, stood up to praise her. When one pair of performers forgot the words to the song, we invited them back on and clapped with them.
As I watched the performances, I observed audience’s reaction, as I always do. Some sat still, focusing intensely while others clapped softly to themselves; some sang along with songs they knew while others bounced silently with friends. In the front corner, near the velvety red and gold chairs, a group of girls sat talking amongst themselves. They had only met each other that night, but they had become fast friends. The evening progressed through a healthy mix of regular Red roomers and new performers. One, in particular, shared that she felt worried when she’d first walked in, alone and signed her name on the performance list. “I was alone,” she told me after the event. “but people were so kind. They came to speak to me [and] I felt that I knew everyone there. I fell in love with Red Room.”
It is this kindness and welcoming spirit that transforms what begins as a small room filled with strangers to one with friends. At the very beginning of the night, as attendees settled onto the red carpets, Manav Mehta, the MC, introduced an important, oft unnoticed element of Red Room: the volunteers. Not only do they attend and participate in Red Room events, but they ensure the Red Room succeeds. They have sustained the community from its inception and we are grateful for their hard work dedication. Like any of the new performers at the 75th Stage Time & Wine, or even the ones who’ve been on the stage before, our volunteers started with a bottle of wine and a room full of strangers who decided to support one another. It’s this support and willingness for camaraderie that has made Red Room an enduring and thriving community in Taipei.
Leah List is a recent graduate of the University of Michigan’s Political Science and International Studies program. She is an aspiring writer, researcher, human rights advocate and a believer in the importance of storytelling. She currently resides in Tianmu. In her free time, she can be found at the Red Room where she volunteers.
Photos from Aside 12
When you think of the color blue, what do you see? A blue sky? Maybe a rolling sea or perhaps even a sea of tear drops?
When you think of the color blue, what do you feel? Do you feel sad or heart broken, contemplative or calm? Do you think of the most melodious of blue jays or of the frighteningly dark voids of space? Do you imagine the crooning of a blues singer or the comforting warmth of your favorite blue sweater?
Truthfully, the color blue gets a bad reputation; people see or hear it’s name and they immediately sigh with the weight of the color’s expectations. It is against this background of Blue and all of its associations, that Red Room’s “Aside” presented moving performances, which illustrated, amplified, and challenged participants’ interpretations of Blue in relation to our senses of touch, taste, smell, hearing & sight.
We continued with the sense of smell local Taiwanese gourmet chef, Alina Lin, shared how her personal experiences and culinary journey intertwined with fond memories from her past. Warm weather and clear blue skies were inspirations for her Ratatouille – a homage to fresh seasonal vegetables and aromatic herbs & spices.
After the break with bellies and ears full, the evening continued with a story-song of warning and self actualization. Tina Ma urged the audience to question whether meeting social expectations is worth sacrificing personal growth and identity.
At this point, Blue had proven itself a chameleon, morphing with the emotional backdrop of each performance. The program steamed along with powerful illustrations of Blue through music and movement.
Singer/poet Vicky Sun and Blues guitarist Eric Shen transported the audience to spaces of love and longing carefully constructed in the mind’s eye by their skillful melodies. Their individual offerings as well as their collaborative pieces “I’m going to find another you” and “Route 66” truly delighted their captive listeners. (Admittedly, the author too was lost in memories and futures during this musical portion of the program.)
Nudging us back to the present and tantalizing our sight, blue frolicked and danced in a spring-like movement and painting piece that evoked both the subtle sensuality and lively tempo of the evening. Billy Chang‘s closing performance of the evening was enchanting and heartwarming. Audience members left with bright dots of blue paint on their faces – happily applied when the dancers made their way through the crowd.
As the evening flowed to a finish, audience members gathered to meet old friends and new, each person exhilarated from their shared experience. Red Room’s “Aside” created a space for common performance and appreciation of a spectrum of human emotions unified by theme of Blue. Each artist’s craft illuminated a unique interpretation of the theme, and left participants empowered to contemplate their own lives through this artistic lens.
Written by Kristin S.
“Hidden and hard to find,” one reviewer, who left a five star rating, says about Research & Development Cocktail Lab. She couples her comment with a picture of the ethanol molecule, R&D’s logo, and instructs others to look for it if lost. It’s true, R&D is more challenging to find than the average bar but, if anything, that adds to its appeal. R&D Cocktail Lab draws its inspiration from speakeasies, which were popular hidden bars during the prohibition era, but it’d be a mistake to only label it a western business.
The founders of R&D opened the lab in 2014 after observing the paucity of Taiwanese ingredients utilized in cocktails around Taiwan. Accordingly, their drinks are often crafted to highlight the fresh ingredients they purchase from farmers around Taiwan. “We’re supporting a livelihood and we find a lot of passion [in Taiwan],” Spencer Huang, one of the founders said about why buying produce from Taiwan was so important. Huang said it was important to build a relationship with each farmer and make sure they felt respected and part of the process.
“One of my favorite farms is actually a farm that we don’t buy the most product from because he doesn’t have the volume for it,” Huang confessed. The farmer avoids pesticides, which may sound simple, but requires immense dedication. Not only does he make his own fertilizer, but he also must prevent beetles from destroying his crop. This involves ‘de-beetling’ every, single tree two times a week. “When you taste this, the yield is much better…” Huang commented. “It’s people like that, that when you talk to them, they respect their ingredients. They respect their process as much as we respect ours and those are the types of people we want to work with.”
The interior of R&D emulates a Chinese medicine shop, with its many shelves and decorative window screens. While the visual is partly to allow aesthetic pleasing hiding places for tools, the founders also chose it because it reflects, in part, the philosophy of their business. The owner of a Chinese medicine shop must be meticulously familiar with all processes and products in their shop. Any customer can expect the same level of meticulousness when served one of their ‘built to spec’ drinks. Huang, both enthusiastic and particular about his work, emphasizes that R&D focuses on craftsmanship, which he says emphasizes the desires of the “guest” rather than the tastes of the bartender. The bartender’s tastes are ‘ancillary’; their knowledge is necessary. To ensure patron satisfaction, and because the owners are passionate about their craft, this is one of two rules R&D founders insist upon.
The other, requiring all employees to speak Taiwanese (and English, which Huang believes is easy to find), has more to do with their desire to “bridge [the] gap between East and West”. R&D doesn’t intend to serve a solely foreign demographic, nor a solely Taiwanese demographic. Rather, the owners hope for it to be a place for people of all backgrounds to feel comfortable and welcome.
As R&D develops, the owners also hope to continue emphasizing culture-bonding and storytelling. For Huang, his business is not just about crafting drinks, but also creating stories. Every drink, by the time you drink it, has collected many stories—from the stories of those who grew and mixed its ingredients, to those of the bartenders who crafted it. Huang realizes that “we are a story-telling culture” and this is part of the reason, R&D has recently started a partnership with the Red Room which has resulted in a new ‘Red Room’ drink, the 臺Walla (Taiwalla). Read more about the how the partnership started and what R&D and the Red Room have in store for Red Roomers below:
Would you want to talk a little bit about how the partnership with the Red Room started?
If you just go from a product aspect it doesn’t really make sense why Red Room would pair up with R&D. I mean, it’s not a logical partnership when you look at it through a business perspective. So you look back at it and say ‘Let’s just take business out of it’. It’s really about culture building. We at R&D are very, very much interested [in culture building]. We hope to create good bonds with the local Taiwanese, because we want them to know we are proud of them [and of] what Taiwan has to offer. So, really, we should be seeing what the locals really appreciate. What do they really value– especially in the artistic community and in a community where people are finding things really out of the ordinary?
That’s where R&D and Red Room really found their middle ground. The idea behind [臺Walla] would be that Red Room, from the beginning, has always served Chai…that is a core ideal of Red Room. Stone soup and tea really gets the ball rolling and gets people talking together. Then we started thinking “What can we do to that that would really make it special? What is something that would be uniquely theirs, that everyone can look at and say ‘Wow, this seems so familiar, yet is new’. What kind of local ingredients can we find that we can throw in here that would be extremely interesting yet, at the same time, hold these same characteristics that we’re trying to retain?
What are the things that interest Red Room? What are the things that interest people that go to Red Room? What are the types of ingredients that we can use to pair with these types of people?
That right there is a cultural learning experience and that’s really fun. That’s really fun.
What is your impression of Red Room? What is it that you think Red Roomers are searching for? What is it that you hope to provide for them with these new drinks beyond the idea of coming together over a Red Room Chai or 臺Walla ?
[The Taiwan Airforce Base] is where the Red Room has taken a space, a real dedicated space, and turned it into something, and this something is still in flux. They’re still trying to define what that Red Room Space is going to be…but in the future, especially when you look at the Renaissance Fair, you can see how in the future they’re going to grow significantly and they’re going to become very important to the cultural program.
This type of improvement and this type of evolution that they’re on is really going to provide us with a lot of opportunities as well. The types of people that go through Red Room—and we’re talking moguls of aboriginal tribes who have really interesting ways of preparing food. The people who go through Red Room are the people we’d like to meet.
We can help them, provide for their bar and then at the same time they give us a lot of introductions to some really cool people.
I realize that this partnership has started rather recently in its current form, but do you have any stories of people you’ve met from the Red Room that you’d like to share, that you feel contributed to this idea of a cultural bonding or building connections between cultures and sort of understanding them. Is there any story that pops into your head?
I guess there would be two. The first one would be Manav. This is not a partnership that would’ve made sense to most people. It was really Manav that gave us the idea that we could really make this work. This reason is he is an Indian guy who went native. He speaks really great Chinese and he’s been here for a long time. He’s someone who has this sort of third culture kid mentality, but at the same time he’s very down to Earth. He likes sharing what he’s learned, he likes sharing the experiences that are not only fun for him but are also interesting to a lot of people, which is [part of why] why Red Room really works.
Maybe two or three months ago he introduced me to this woman, and she’s an aborigine costume designer, I believe. She brought up some of her friends that are also some local aborigines. They were really interesting for me to talk to, not because they had anything material to offer, but because they had the knowledge and the experience they were telling me about and they were sharing with me that were things that were unbelievably fascinating, things that would give you all sorts of ideas about what you could do.
Those are the types of conversations, and I guess Red Room really is a great place for those conversations. It’s where you go to get more information, where you got to meet people, like you were saying. This would be a prime example of that—both Manav and the woman, and then her friends. If anything ever comes of it, y’know, that would be great, but otherwise it was a great conversation that really gave us, as foreigners in Taipei, a good perspective on what else we’re missing.
Do you want to give people a hint of upcoming projects? Are there any projects that you are really excited by that, perhaps, you don’t want to reveal but you could hint at?
One of the coolest projects is our vessel project. We’re trying to think, well, how would we get Red Room in on this Red Room is full of artists, and that’s why I love it. It’s full of people who come from different backgrounds and different places and they work with different mediums and tools. If you can imagine having a clay vase or a clay bottle, something that you might see in an aboriginal tribe….these are the types of materials that are really fun to work with, to put our product in, not because it’s good for marketing, but because it makes people question.
You know, you walk and you can say “Hey I recognize this, but what’s in it today? What’s in this bottle today?” This bottle is from Red Room, it’s a Red Room and R&D mixture, but I have no idea what’s in it this month; it always changes. That’s something you’ll look for; y’know, you’ll walk in and you’ll look for it.
That in itself is a Red Room-R &D story. Everything that we can do to create these types of vessels, these types of glasses and cups where we don’t use our logo as just as stamp on the bottle, but we incorporate it into the design. Getting the Red Room community involved to help us develop things for the community is going to be really fun.
“So we’ve talked a little bit about the Red Room and what it means to you. Do you want to talk a little bit about the anniversary and the painting that you did?”
On the 6th Anniversary, I chose to be the artist that captured the event. The location that I chose [was] the second floor, the indoor space. When I was standing there I looked at the space and what was going on and I thought about what I wanted to paint. So then I came up with this idea: Why don’t I capture the movement and also the energy of the space?
I decided to pick the elements, mostly the color and also do it in a random way, to put some texture on the canvas. I started with all white, created the texture, then I chose the colors of the space. Then I started to invite the audience throughout the day to participate in coloring the painting.
The first participants were kids. I put the color in the paint and showed them how to use the roller to put the color on. The kids were so excited! While I was preparing they kept coming over to say “Can I paint now?” As they were asking, I knew that that was the right decision to invite the audience to participate. When I was ready they lined up together and each of them did one corner. They were great—five years old, four years old, twelve years old—they can all do it. People are amazing when you give them a place to shine. They kids helped me do the base color. Then, in between the shows, I started putting on more details. In the afternoon, I started to invite adults.
I wanted to capture the energy and the people, to leave not footprints but handprints. I think in our life, all the people and all the events that we encounter, we leave footprints in each other’s hearts. That footprint transforms us; it stays in us. It doesn’t matter if you encounter this person for one second, one minute or one hour, more or less all these people leave footprints and they transform us. So that day, I wanted people to put their handprints to remember that experience. We transformed each other in a way and we will always have each other.
That’s what Red Room is all about, connecting people and creating and sharing moments together. So, that’s my idea of this painting.
“Had you ever done anything like that before? I feel you’ve touched on this, but what did you learn from the experience, besides the idea that we’re all leaving our marks on one another? Are there any interesting stories you have from a particular person or a moment where you realized your perspective on art had changed just by doing this or was it more a culmination of your journey?
Yes, it is definitely a culmination of my journey because I had never done interactive art before. At the beginning, as an observer to myself, I really saw that you have to let go if you want to invite people to participate in something and co-create with you. You really need to learn to let go and trust—that was the biggest lesson that day. I really wanted to do that but, in the beginning when the kids were doing it, there was a small voice in the back of my head asking “Is this okay?” Of course, I wondered if they’d go a little bit too left or too right and those voices were trying to control everything. Then, at the same time, I told myself that every time I heard that voice I would acknowledge it, smile and let go.
The more I trusted people the more I realized that there were so many times that day that people did it in a way that was beyond my expectation. After the kids took one corner, there were times that I really felt that what they did inspired me and, once they’d finished, I could paint more on the canvas. So, that moment, that learning moment lead me to allow people to do things of their free will and I actually gained more. I gained something from it too because they brought me inspiration.
What’s going to happen to the painting now?
Originally the idea was to sell it, but I just asked if Red Room would like to create the painting. It was created on the 6th anniversary and it was co-created by the people that were here together. I felt it meant more to keep it in Red Room than to sell it and I don’t see any price that could compare to the moment that we captured.
Red Room decided to keep the painting.
I actually participated in your painting and it was amazing. I thought it was so great that all of these people were gathering together and I saw people watching you. I feel like you opened a door for people to participate and feel they were part of something and part of the community.
Thank you so much for doing that and for making the audience feel more like a community member and not just an audience.
I thank Red Room and the people for being so open to that idea. I was a bit shy in the beginning as well because I didn’t know how people would feel about it, because they’d have to put paint on their hands and then wash them, but people were so supportive. So, to me, I felt like I was the one gaining a lot.
For years I worked on perfecting my skills in drawing in painting, but I think I got the largest emotional reaction from this painting. It made me laugh that I’d spent years trying to draw things I know and draw them in an exact way, but the painting I got the most compliments on is the one with no exact shape or figure. It’s just purely fun, but people just love it the most. I think perhaps they love it because they participated in it; I think that’s a very important element.
What do you have to say to people who want to do interactive art like you did? You mentioned in the beginning that you were a little shy, you weren’t sure how it would be received and I feel people always feel that way about art and approaching other people. What would you say to those people who are on the verge of deciding whether to do
You mean they have an idea to pitch?
Yeah, or if you do this participatory art and ask people to get involved with an idea? How do you overcome that shyness? Was it just gaining confidence the more people said ‘yes’? How did you push yourself to put yourself in that position?
I started with people I know. I think that’s also one of the reasons I went with kids, it’s easier. So, I think just make things easier for yourself. Go with the people you feel most comfortable with. Trust your intuition, because I think doing anything the same. We often try to plan things with our mind, but we shouldn’t ignore that very pure intuition in your heart. I think that’s the simplest guidance. Some people make you feel easy, trust that feeling and then start from there.
2016 is a leap year! What will you do with that extra day?
Spend it with us at the RED ROOM and discover the magic of being part of a fun, creative, enthusiastic community based upon the concept of LISTENING.
Let’s reach for the sky together! Kindly LEAP to the occasion by preparing
1) A song, a skit, a joke, a poem.
2) Some additional juice or a snack to share
3) Your best clapping hands and listening ears!
The Red Room is a green environment. Bring your own drinking vessel! If not, you may borrow or purchase one of our awesome, groovy bamboo mugs.
Stage Time and Juice 是一個新的紅房(Red room)社群與 Taipei City Playgroup 所舉辦的活動，活動主要用意為鼓勵孩子們步入創意探索的道路。 活動主要以英文進行，受邀參加的孩子們，可以有機會聆聽許多故事，分享彼此天賦才能及創意想法。倒點果汁，隨意找個座位坐下，和我們果汁家庭成員們一同學 習，一同分享這個多元化的平台。 在櫃台會有報名表，讓勇敢的小朋友們可以登記上台朗讀、分享藝術、玩音樂或者講故事。
2) 紅房(Red room)社群關心綠色環保議題，所以來時候可以考慮在現場購買一個我們引以為傲的竹杯子，又或者您也可以攜帶自己的環保杯。
Entrance fee: NT100 for adults, NT 50 per child (ages 5-16)
活動時間 Date and Time ：2月 27 日星期六 2:30 pm – 4:30pm
入場費用 Fee：大人NT100 小孩 (5-16歲 ) NT50
Recommended Age: 5 and Above
活動地點：國防部空軍司令部舊址 圖書館 2 樓
台北市大安區建國南路一段177號 （濟南路與建國南路交叉口）No. 177, Sec. 1, Jianguo S. Rd (Intersection of Jianguo S. Rd. and Jinan Rd.
Hosts: RED ROOM www.redroomtaipei.com and The Taipei City Playgroup
肯夢 AVEDA I Ripplemaker Foundation