The Isolation Diaries: nonbinary drag artists The Darlings

by Janet Smith, Georgia Straight.  May 29th, 2020 at 4:28 PM

With theatres, galleries, stores, and restaurants shuttered to flatten the COVID-19 curve, the Isolation Diaries reach out to Vancouver’s creative sector to find out what they’re watching, how they’re coping, and where they’re finding inspiration.

The Artists

The Darlings are a multidisciplinary, nonbinary drag performance collective based in Vancouver, BC. Their work challenges the boundaries of conventional drag, and explores genderqueer, nonbinary, and transgender experience through the use of movement, poetry, performance art, theatre, and immersive/interactive installation. The Darlings are: Continental Breakfast (Chris Reed), PM (Desi Rekrut), Rose Butch (Rae Takei), and Maiden China (Kendell Yan). As an emerging collective, they have mounted four full-length installations in September 2018, October 2018, and April 2019 as well as features at 2018’s Here For Now Volume 2 dance showcase, the 2019 PuSh International Performing Arts Festiva), and full-length feature at the Transform Cabaret Festival. They created two quarantine-specific, digital shows during the 2020 COVID-19 social distancing measures, which has garnered more than 10,000 views to date; you can find those via Facebook and Vimeo.

No. 1 Thing That’s Getting You Through

MC: “I’ve been ruminating on the resilience of the queer community pushing their art forms through new mediums and making it WERK and that excites me beyond belief. Seeing folks like Kendall Gender and Boss create beautiful, high-calibre drag videos that rival the multibillion-dollar music industry fills me with pride I can’t describe. Also, mothering my house plants and shaving my eyebrows off.”

CB: “I’ve been listening to music constantly, I find monotony in TV and film sometimes because I struggle to see the representation I’m looking for in my art intake. Things outside are stressful right now and keeping calm is a big focus for me. Down-tempo music with minimal vocals stays emotionally gentle.”

Comfort Food

RB: “Ugh, the dalgona coffee trend got me and I love it. I’ve been really enjoying fermented things – eating a lot of kimchi, enjoying sourdough baked by pals, and I went full throttle East Van and brewed and bottled my own kombucha for the first time!

“Every once in a while I like to get a takeout treat from some of my favourite Mount Pleasant spots – poutine from The Black Lodge and the tuna poké bowl from Carp. And Earnest Ice Cream, obviously. Specifically, the vegan Peanut Butter Chocolate Pretzel.”

PM: 1 cup milk.

2 bananas .

3/4 cup Chia.

1 spoonful of Nutella / Peanut Butter.

Blend, and put in the fridge, 30 minutes.

STIR / SHAKE mixture.

leave for 30 MORE minutes.

” A yummy, pudding-like fantasy should be achieved.”


PM: “Isolation – Kali Uchis (title is very fitting for this time; but this music washes over and just makes me so happy. It is light and bubbly, and very well written)

“Quarantine has also given me a chance to create playlists. I used to use YouTube, but with Spotify, the tables have turned. I have been curating playlists for different parts of the city, that would suit each area (in my opinion)–English Bay, Commercial Drive, Trout Lake.”

MC: “For an emotional joyride I turn to pretty much everything by Anohni and the Johnsons, or Hopelessness by ANOHNI. Queer dance party simulations to Raise me up by Hercules and the Love Affair. Also Austra’s new album is very fresh and exhilarating and a general all around mood lifter.”

Streaming now

RB: “Podcasts are my number one medium to consume, and usually it’s something related to true crime but I just got hooked on Making Gay History. It’s a gorgeous oral history podcast of interviews recorded in the ’70s and ’80s with movers and shakers of the LGBTQ+ rights movements in the US from the 40s to the 90s. I highly recommend, especially to queer folks from my generation.”

MC: “I’ve been really into Midnight Gospel; it’s like a visual podcast set to a millennial psychedelic sci-fi trip with philosophical ramblings and cute characters. Sasha Velour’sNightgowns on Quibi, and also Terrace house because I love reality TV that isn’t centered around conflict and abuse.”

Creative or learning outlet

PM: “I’ve been dancing a lot more than I have in the past couple of years. I always held my movement to a high standard, and gave up the desire to make it my full-time profession because doubt crept in. For whatever reason, research feels more poignant during this time. I’ve been improving, filming and learning from myself without judgement from teachers or other people. It has been beautiful to be able to watch, learn, and edit.”

MC: “I did a 40-day quarantine drag look series on Instagram and that provided me so much solace for the beginning of this wild experience- sitting down without the news or instagram/FB and just focusing on the art. I learned a lot about texture, unconventional materials, and makeup for camera vs. the stage. I’m also slowly practicing my mandarin and plan to start sewing soon!”

The Darlings
The Darlings

Survival tip

RB: “Stay connected with folks that you love, drink water, be kind to one another.”

PM: “Do what you need to do to survive during this time. Although everyone is in this “thing” together, each Quarantine will look different. Just because you’re not “doing” or “practicing” in quarantine doesn’t make the work you’ve done any less. Each person is in this, grieving, together. Don’t try and replicate others to try and feel fulfilled. You can sit, and be content during this time.”

MC: “In relative terms I’m very lucky to be in a country that is providing social assistance during a time of mass unemployment, so I think being mindful of what privileges I have in my position has been keeping me somewhat level through all of this. I live with high anxiety and depression and the best thing I’ve been able to do is take every day as it comes by listening critically and thoughtfully to my needs as a means of being conscious of what I want my life to look like. Stay inspired, establish your boundaries, cultivate change.”

CB: “Stay informed on what is happening in the news but try to focus on ways of keeping the people in your life safe. Past a certain point, scrolling through the news will only cause anxiety and you need to provide yourself with things that you enjoy. Pornh*b Premium is free right now.”