'There’s an evolution going on in art,” says drag performer Carnita Asada. “We’re at a point in time where it’s either evolve or lose your artistry.”
Asada has opted to evolve. “Artists are resilient people,” he says. “And now that we’re all sheltered at home, we’re getting good at performing live when it’s, you know. Not live.”
Where he once donned a wig and a housedress to perform a manic lip-sync to David Seville’s “Witch Doctor” for a roomful of fans, Asada is now playing to an invisible audience.
As host of Quarantine Creators, a pandemic-era drag event for Arizona Virtual Pride, he teaches dance routines and leads live karaoke songfests. “It’s me and two other performers,” he explains, “parked in my backyard and streaming live. It’s the kind of distraction people keep saying they need.”
He’s hosted a virtual dance soiree called the Phoenix Red Party, shooting his section at home. (“I got all done up in drag and set up on my patio with a real cute view of the mountains.”) And as director of queer content for SpeirTV’s The Phoenix One LGBTA Global Channel, he’s highlighting other entertainers, curating and creating video submissions by drag queens, dancers, and burlesque performers.
“Whether it’s drag artists or musicians or dancers,” he says, “there are all these people out there, lacking an audience because everyone’s staying at home. That’s where I come in. We’ll be streaming these performers who used to get up on stage every night and can’t now.”
Virtual performing in a pandemic isn’t all roses, Asada admits. “You don’t have the applause, the tips, the energy of the audience to move you along. And then, you know, you have to film every number eight or nine times to get different angles, or maybe you have a wig change or a big costume reveal or something. So it’s five or six hours for a three-minute performance.”
He’s learning as he goes. Video editing is getting easier, and copyright issues have become less daunting. “You have to keep an eye on who owns the song you’re performing to. A lot of social media platforms won’t run a performance if your copyright isn’t cleared, so you’ve spent all this time and then Twitter takes the audio out and you’re just dancing around to silence. That’s not fun.”
Nightlife entertainers have bonded over these travails, Asada says. “Performers and burlesque people and DJs around the country are having this huge conversation about how to perform from a distance. So it’s no fun that we’re dealing with all this virtual trial and error. But on the other hand, it’s beautiful to see that we don’t need a live stage to come together. We don’t need to go out in the usual way to create art for one another.”