Years will pass before we can unpackage the destruction coronavirus has caused, to both the health and economy of people worldwide. Not to be overlooked in this maelstrom is the impact on minority communities, who most often bear the brunt of crises like pandemics and economic depressions.
The drag community is one such group that fell into jeopardy. As bars and clubs closed (sometimes permanently) drag kings and queens found themselves cut off from much-needed income, and the wider LGBTQ community from their meeting places, social networks, and safety nets.
High profile celebrities and TV shows like RuPaul’s Drag Race were among the first to move their drag shows online, mobilizing their resources and large camera and marketing teams. For lesser-known performers, of course, it has been more difficult and the rewards much lower. A queen who supplements her income with weekend tips from the local bar will make only a fraction broadcasting her show on Youtube with a PayPal address.
…support queens and kings in Japan, find your community, and enjoy life a little during Miss Rona’s reign.
That said, as can be expected from a tribe of creatives, the switch to online shows has led to many performers exploring new artforms, shifting from live shows to movies, music videos, and mixed media, as well as homemade talk shows and comedy not unlike Trixie and Katya’s UNHhhh.
Without further ado, I’ve compiled a list of some of my top picks for online drag shows to support queens and kings in Japan, find your community, and enjoy life a little during Miss Rona’s reign.
Drag shows streaming from Japan
The always popular Beauty Blenda took an ambitious approach to online broadcasting, launching Beauty Blenda TV in June and cranking out an episode once or twice a month.
BB features videos from its usual drag and variety show line-up, using pre-filmed live shows, music videos, and dance. BB also brought in talents from across Japan and abroad (including Lebanese Qaws Qozah and Merlin Camealot). Perhaps the most defining feature of BB TV is its focus on comedy hosting and performer interviews, which take place between performances.
The fifth episode will introduce a new type of corona theater, as the organizers, Haus of Gaishoku, attempt to safely reintroduce live audiences. This show will be held in Osaka’s Bar Theatre Ludo, where the number of audience members will be strictly limited and safety regulations (such as masks and hand sanitization) enforced. The live performance, intercut with video screenings, will be streamed on Youtube.
Casket of Horrors
Led by mother Die Schwarze Frau, the new Haus of Schwarz will hold its first-ever show next month. A goth haus, the idea of a Halloween-themed live show was too enticing for haus parents DSF and Ross Verik to resist, and the concept quickly blossomed into an international two-hour special.
Streamed from Bar GyoenRosso198, Casket of Horrors will feature a mixture of live performances by its haus members (plus Julia Your-Makeup-Is-Terrible, the honorary “haus maid”) and videos from its guest performers. These guests, who hail from Japan and abroad, will be judged in a friendly drag competition by Haus of Schwarz, with an Amazon gift card and the title of “The Queen (or Queer) of Halloween 2020” for the winner.
Casket of Horrors is slated for only one show at present but may return.
Beginning its first live on Aug. 1, 2020, Tokyo Closet Ball arrived a little late to the virtual stage. Despite this delay, Tokyo’s long-running international drag show quickly made up for lost time by scheduling three online shows for September, October, and December.
TCB aims to recapture its in-person magic as closely as possible, broadcasting from its home venue, Bar GyoenRosso198. Show lineups include the usual suspects, a mixture of streamed performances intercut with pre-prepared videos.
Bar owner Tokusan takes safety in his venue seriously, and performers abide by a contract not to hug, touch, or get to close to one another during the show.
TCB is a family-style drag troupe, where members participate and perform purely for the joy of each other’s art and company. Catch Closet Ball’s next live show to join in the zaney fun.
Other Japanese Shows
Japan has other intermittent shows which have no future broadcasts scheduled at this time but are worth keeping an eye on.
DQOS (Drag Queens Online Show), featuring predominantly Japanese queens, was streamed for ¥1000 on Zaiko.
Dragmania TV streamed for ¥1500 on Zaiko and can still be viewed from the archive for ¥1000!
Stonewall Japan’s COVIDeo drag is free to watch on Youtube, starring international drag performers from all over Japan and including representatives from Tokyo Closet Ball, Kings of Tokyo, and Haus of Kinki.
Finally, the monthly fetish club Department H, which includes drag shows among its other burlesque acts, was streamed on TwitCasting these past three months for ¥2000. Department H runs the first Saturday of every month, and will mostly continue its online streams until the pandemic ends.
International drag shows
There are probably hundreds of drag performers taking their art online around the globe. Here are a few that are on my radar.
Black Girl Magic Drag
The Vixen’s brainchild Black Girl Magic—a drag show starring African American performers—is back with an incredible cast as usual, including RuPaul season 11 winner Yvie Oddly and Season 3 Boulet Brothers’ Dragula contestant Maxi Glamour, among many others.
Black Girl Magic is known for its fierce performances and high concepts, showcasing the diversity of styles and talents within the Black drag community. For audiences around the world, an online broadcast of the show is an opportunity that should not be missed.
An international broadcast organized by Canadian performance artist Ima Hoare, Drag TV airs like clockwork on the first of every month and showcases drag performers from the camp and comedy to the avant-garde. Notable performers include (but are far from limited to) Kendall Gender, Scarlett Bobo, and Japan’s own Belgium Solanas and Goma Dango.
Tips donated directly to Drag TV’s gofundme are donated to organizations such as Black Lives Matter and the Vancouver Aboriginal Friendship Center.
Wednesdays We Wear Black
Activist and haus mother Amber St. James is one of the amazing rising queens of southern California, making us Americans across the globe proud. In addition to her many other online projects, St. James is organizing—together with Luxe the Drag Queen—a Halloween drag show in honor of popular television series American Horror Story.
Wednesdays We Wear Black features an all-star cast, including Drag TV organizer Ima Hoare and former Boulet Brothers’ Dragula contestant Disasterina.
Last but not least, drag queens Alana Duvey and Dharma Geddon have been sending positive vibes out into the universe from their nuclear fallout shelter in Scotland.
Glamor queen Alana and apocalypse queen Dharma form a dynamic duo, passing the time while the earth crumbles above them with multi-media performances, puppet shows, games with the viewing audience (such as “spot the difference”), and of course their own entertaining banter. The end of the world has never been more fun!
Stay safe, stay groovy, and above all stay fabulous.