(WM) Performers from throughout Tampa Bay are streaming recurring shows via social media to raise funds and awareness for performers financially impacted by COVID-19.
LGBTQ and ally venues began announcing event cancellations, postponements and closures throughout the area to reduce the spread of the coronavirus last month. Gov. Ron DeSantis subsequently ordered bars and nightclubs closed statewide, impacting a number of entertainers financially dependent on scheduled performances.
Enigma St. Pete Show Director Daphne Ferraro, Tampa Bay WAVE Award winner for favorite drag performer two years running, began hosting “Daphne and Friends: The Socially Distant Drag Show” March 20. The weekly showcase welcomes a growing number of entertainers from across the nation, encouraging viewers to tip them via digital payment systems like Cash App, PayPal and Venmo.
“I was looking for things to do to feel normal,” Ferraro reflects. “There’s a lot of negativity, so I went to my happy place and that’s drag. I wanted to do what I could to help my friends and people that I’ve known for so long that are struggling right now.”
Ferraro notes that she’s blessed to have another source of income while many entertainers do not. It’s led her to donate the tips she receives to each week’s rotating cast.
“The show has turned into something much greater than I thought it was going to be,” Ferraro explains. “It’s been a really nice way to stay connected, touch base with people and give them some entertainment to take their mind off of things.”
Her efforts have also bolstered her creativity. The performer opened the March 27 show with a special “PSA from the Tallest Drag Queen in Captivity,” a parody about social distancing inspired by Bette Midler’s “From a Distance.”
“I go into this process of trying to focus on creating things when the world is full of destruction,” Ferraro says. “This has forced me to learn new tricks … I’m going to continue to produce the show and improve on it.”
“The Socially Distant Drag Show” is held Fridays at 9:30 p.m. EST and streamed via Instagram Live. Watch Ferraro and her friends @DaphneFerraroTall and check out her latest parody below:
Some entertainers are streaming multiple shows per week, like Sarasota-based entertainer Beneva Fruitville. Her virtual “Quarantined with Beneva Piano Bar” now serves as her sole source of income after she lost her regular bookings throughout the area.
“It’s an interactive hour of music from radio classics to hit songs from Broadway,” Fruitville explains. She welcomes viewers to Facebook Live from 8-9 p.m. each weeknight while accepting tips. “It is also a way for everyone to connect, socialize and sing some of their troubles away for a bit.”
You can join Fruitville for the “Quarantined with Beneva Piano Bar” at Facebook.com/BenevaFruitville and check out one of her most recent performances.
In an effort to help local artists and the community, Pasco Pridehas also launched two streaming shows. The first is “Bedtime Storytime,” a virtual variation on the organization’s successful Drag Queen Story Hour.
The show is streamed live every Monday and Wednesday at 8:30 p.m. Entertainers Stephanie Stuart and Mr. Vyn Suazion, the inaugural Miss and Mr. Pasco Pride, read stories and play music.
Suazion hosts the second show, “Music with Mr. V,” each Tuesday and Thursday at 8:30 p.m. It’s described as a “nighttime acoustic experience before bedtime.”
Pasco Pride President Nina Borders says the organization is also working on additional programming.
“We want people to know that Pride may be ‘under quarantine’ due to the pandemic at the moment but Pasco Pride is very much still active and finding new ways to connect with our community on social media,” she says.
“Bedtime Storytime” and “Music with Mr. V” are each streamed at Facebook.com/PascoPrideFestival.
For the latest updates about COVID-19 and its impact on the LGBTQ communities in Tampa Bay and Central Florida, view Watermark’s frequently updated coverage here.