It has been a year since clubs and theatres have closed in Toronto. For many in the LGBTQ+ community, performing is a main source of income.
“It just passed my one year of not performing in Toronto because of COVID. A long, long year,” Aurora Matrix said.
Matrix is a drag performer in Toronto. She has been doing drag for more than two years and is one of many who have been affected by the closures.
Devine Darlin, who is also a drag artist in Toronto and has been performing for 14 years, said he hasn’t been able to perform in front of a live audience for more than six months. But he is soon traveling to Ottawa to be able to perform in front of audiences again.
“What I miss most about performing live is the audience, the energy, the atmosphere … just that energy boost and that adrenaline that you receive [from the audience],” Darlin said.
Though both queens haven’t been able to perform live, they have found new ways to continue to work during closures.
“I’ve done some Instagram Live shows,” Matrix said. “That way I can reach out to the people who already follow me and give them some [more] content.”
Matrix is a student at York University. The university has drag performances on Zoom, which she also performs in.
Darlin wanted to save his performances for a live audience and found an alternative to dancing and performing online.
“I created an online show from home called Divine Diamond, and for that, I basically just had fun in my kitchen. Cooking, talking to people, just giving people a different side of myself,” Darlin said.
But the online performances can’t beat the feeling of performing live.
“No matter how many Zoom shows I do, it’s just not the same as hearing the audience cheer or seeing people’s faces in person,” Matrix said.
Venue owners and workers are also having to change the way they operate, as performances are unable to run while venues are closed.
“We are [currently] doing work internally. Focusing more so on residency, development, as well as a community education program,” Daniel Carter said.
Carter works for Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, a Toronto theatre that centres queer voices. It has been open for 43 years and is the largest and longest-running queer theatre in the world.
With event spaces being closed for so long, it is important to support the performers and artists who rely on these types of venues for income.
“Looking at organizations that do have a queer focus and queer mandate… that money is dispersed and invested into the queer arts community,” Carter said. “So, funding or donating to those organizations is one way to go.”
People watching streams and interacting with different venues and performers can help through these tough times. But there are also ways to help individual performers directly.
“A lot of performers will either have merch, or they’ll have their tipping information right on their account. That is a great way to support,” Matrix said.