Local performance artists turn to livestreams

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Deanna Acquaviva of Wyandotte, Michigan just celebrated her second year as a drag entertainer, but instead of having a commemorative show, she practiced social distancing. Because live shows are temporarily halted, she has taken to livestreaming as her performance platform.

Acquaviva, an alternative drag performer aka “Baha! Blast” said via email, she mixes numerous types of drag, including queen, king, cosplays, body paint, horror and sideshow acts into one for the best possible show.

A few examples of the many transformations crowds can anticipate seeing from Baha! Blast. Photo courtesy of: Deanna Acquaviva

“I was doing about four drag gigs a week, which helped pay my bills and gave me extra cash in times of need,” she said. “Now, I’m streaming my transformations and interactive segments.”

She said she has been using many different platforms to stream, depending on which one is busiest on a given night.

An infographic listing some of the platforms viewers can tune into livestreams on. Credit: Lauren Buchko

Who’s watching?

CJ Poelman of Westland, Michigan said she misses live entertainment, and recently started watching streams, including drag performances, cooking, art and more.

“Historically, I’m not a streamer, but I’ve started watching more, and it’s inspiring,” she said via email. “It’s awesome to see the creative content people are putting online.”

Poelman said she enjoys watching people entertain and teach about their passions.

“Streaming seems like a good way to get exposure, but I don’t know how helpful it is financially,” she said.

Lisa Barney, of Grand Rapids, Michigan, said she doesn’t know how adequate streaming is in financially supporting performers and artists.

“I think since everything is happening remotely right now, it’s the best we can do in an unprecedented and temporary situation,” she said via email.

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Have you watched a livestream?
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Social distancing has gotten me to watch livestreams
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Poll about livestream habits. Credit: Lauren Buchko

How does this affect performances?

She said streams can give crowds a new perspective on the show, such as seeing what a performer does before hitting the stage or adding new elements.

“I’ve never brought my ukulele to a drag show because of the lower sound, but that’s now perfect for streaming,” she said.

Acquaviva said streaming has also been incredibly limiting, as part of being in the bar is working the crowd.

 “I do sideshow work and put things through my lips and tongue to creep folks out while I lip-sync,” she said. “With streaming, it just looks like a video of me doing irresponsible things on the internet instead of a special moment in a live crowd.”

Acquaviva said one of the biggest challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has been dealing with events slowly shut down, one by one. Her own show, “Technicolor Freakshow” was planned for Apr. 25 in Detroit.

“There’s still a part of me that’s not ready to release a poster saying it’s canceled,” she said. “It hurts to not only lose income and a queer outlet but my own show.”

She said bars and live performance venues become a safe place for many in the LGBTQ+ community and not having those spaces is a terrifying thought.

“Queers are resilient and find a way to make money, but not having the space to escape is hurting a lot of us mentally,” she said.

Acquaviva said one of the best ways to support drag performers at this time is by giving them love, time and money, if possible.

“I know so many artists out of work because all they did was drag,” she said. “Please support local drag, we have so much to offer, especially in times like this.”

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