Stage Time & Wine rarely starts on time; it starts early. What I mean to say is, what I’ve come to consider Stage Time & Wine, and the Red Room community, extends itself beyond the hours between when the emcee enters the stage and the last performer exits. Red Room’s 77th Stage Time & Wine confirmed this view.
Roma Mehta and Sharon Landon laugh while preparing the stone soup for Red Roomers
At 5:30, volunteers for the night already bustled through the space, carrying trays of foods, stirring pots and chatting over tidying up. At the front of the room, Vicky Sun perched on a stool with her guitar. She looked over to Addison, who having spent the last thirty seconds muttering “check” and counting in different tones into the mic, had already settled into his post. After receiving the thumbs up, Sun began to croon into the microphone, a warm bluesy melody expanded and filled the room. Volunteers in the back responded with a smattering of applause and affirmative whoops.
Deshara tiptoes and skips playfully through the crowd
The room had filled well before Trevor Tortomasi, Red Room’s emcee for the night, recommended sitting on the ever present red carpets. People had clustered in groups, a mix of friends and new attendees, and had commenced sharing their lives with each other. 6:30 came and everyone finally settled and hushed. In truth the night was filled with curiousity rousing and empathy engendering moments.
Max Power positioned himself on the stool and, with his usual dry wit, launched himself into a world full of vivid imagery; a world which left the reader disoriented but wanting. Addison Eng added levity to the night with a performance that meshed acting and musicianship. Li Wei Seh sang songs from the collective memory of his tribe. Deshara, and a friend she pulled from the audience, introduced a playful children’s drumming game. Each of them ran and skipped and spun around a chest, intermittently slapping the wood and humming in an otherworldly voice. “We just practiced for maybe twenty, minutes before so, actually, we felt quite nervous today,” an out-of-breath Deshara convinced following a healthy applause.
A ukelele player, Joyce Wolf, shared in Deshara’s nervousness. Nevertheless, she thanked “the Red Room for creating [a] space to be able to perform and feel comfortable” before strumming and singing with a friend. Many other performers seemed to feel similarly, because they felt comfortable enough to impart personal and social memories with a room filled largely with people they’d only just encountered.
Fiona read Bei Ying, or my father’s back, a poem written by Zhu Zi-Qing. The resounding image in the poem is of a father walking away from a son. Before she began, she revealed that she had lost her own father two months ago. A friend embraced her when she finished, and other audience members outstretched their arms and extended affection.
Marcus begins his spoken word performance
Another performer, Alex, shared his own personal loss. During his five minutes, Red Roomers went through the five stages of grief in a tragi-comic story which centered on the loss of a fiancee. Alexandra Gilliam reads original poetry which also focused on loss, heartbreak and abandonment. Her words settle upon the audience like a several blankets, cocooning them in layers of meaning.
As the night draws to a close, our opening performer, Max Power, introduces a friend. He asks the crowd if he can share, though he has arrived late. Applause follows him to the front of the room, where he composes himself for a moment, before beginning a spoken word poem on systemic racism and the community he grew up in.
Though the mics were turned off after Marcus’ performance, Red Roomers continued to mingle and create well beyond the official end time. For many of us, Stage Time & Wine was more than a single event, or an open mic night, or a night of poetry and music. Stage Time Night was a facet of a community which flowed through all Red Room events and beyond them, spilling over past the microphone and the stage.
by Leah List
Editor for the Red Room