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From drag queens to theater groups, Vegas performers find ways to get their work out with venues closed

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Heidi Rider performs during Majestic Repertory Theatre’s drive-thru theater experience.
Photo: John Locher / AP Photo

Throughout the pandemic, creatives across the Valley have tapped into their imaginations and resources, dreaming up new ways to deliver entertainment to their fans.

One of the first venues to embrace livestreaming during quarantine was Piranha Nightclub. In the earliest weeks of the shutdown, the resident queens of Piranha brought the art of drag into people’s homes through Instagram Live and later, Twitch, every Monday evening.

“Immediately, I had this inspiration, being from Houston,” says queen London Adour. “The queens [there] were doing live shows … and that’s where my inspiration came from. About five days after quarantine [started], I did my own show inside my living room.”

Piranha quickly signed on to the idea of doing a livestream show of its own and got all of the resident queens on board. Not only was it a way to keep people entertained, it was a way to make sure that the talent—which was performing online for free—got paid.

Beverly Chillz

Beverly Chillz

Without being able to host the show in person, performers lost both their paychecks and their tips. The benefits of livestreaming were twofold: Performers got paid through online tips, and fans stayed connected with their favorite queens.

The web-based events were so successful, Adour says, that Piranha has even “flirted with the idea of going live on the weekends” even when the club reopens.

Another LGBTQ-focused event, Bodywork, will host its first livestream on June 25 to celebrate Pride month. The event, called Homebody, will raise money for the LGBTQ Freedom Fund, which posts bail and secures safety for low-income LGBTQ individuals in Nevada and other states.

The RSVP-only event, capped at 100 attendees, is billed as “an intentional space” for Black and indigenous people of color, the queer community and their allies.

The Zoom event will feature a DJ set by MikeQ from HBO’s TV show Legendary, along with local DJs and artists including A.C. Esme, Brock G, Beverly Chillz and Lynn Troller, plus an interactive dance class led by Eva Soriano.

While it might seem like everyone has turned to their computers for entertainment during the pandemic, others have done the opposite.

Entertainment companies Sin City Scenic and Pop Up Photo Op teamed up to create Higher Love, “a big sparkly float” that roams “through communities spreading love to essential workers.”

As the city started to reopen in May and some entertainers went back to work, the Higher Love project came to a close, but it returned for a one-off performance on June 12 for a drive-thru production by Backstage Hope Inc.

Downtown theater company Majestic Repertory Theatre also hosted an interactive drive-thru experience throughout May, complete with masked burlesque performers.

Local entertainer Mark Shunock, founder of performance venue The Space, hosted a six-hour telethon livestream for the April edition of his monthly charity show, Mondays Dark.

Though the Space is closed to the public for the foreseeable future, Shunock has kept his venue running as a livestreaming hub.

Australian male revue Thunder From Down Under just held its first-ever livestream show from the Space on June 20, and singers Maxine Jones and Tony Terry and America’s Got Talent finalist Daniel Emmet and Italian singer Giada Valenti have also livestreamed from inside the same Vegas entertainment hub.

“Yes, people want to go out,” Shunock says. “There’s nothing like seeing someone [perform live]. But here’s an opportunity to say to fans all around the world, please tune in, click here and support us. And I think that’s a great opportunity for an entertainer to have.”

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Leslie Ventura is a staff writer at Las Vegas Weekly and Industry Weekly. She’s picked the brains of rock stars ...

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