Juneau’s virtual Pride Week is going smoothly despite the new format and possible technical snags, said performers and organizers.
“We started out with our speed friending on Friday night, and we had no idea what to expect. There were about 30 people who zoomed in, and it went great,” said James Hoagland, part of the Southeast Alaska LGBTQ+ Alliance’s planning committee for the events and performer. “The technology all worked fine, but it also had this really connected feel, which was really hard to capture.”
With the coronavirus events pushing all the events online, organizers were concerned that technical difficulties could ground the event before it could hit its stride. But planning and technical focus steered them clear of the shoals, said Richard Carter, another one of the organizers and hosts.
“I think that we have some very thoughtful and technologically adept people on the committee and the board thinking about how to run these events,” Carter said in a phone interview. “I think at the same time ,we’ve been reminding ourselves not to break our backs to do something out of this world.”
The focus is on the community and carrying on the spirit of Pride Week, Carter said, rather than trying to do anything extraordinary technically. Despite that, they’ve been successful and hit few glitches so far.
“I hope that everyone sees the reason why we’re insistent and tenacious about continuing the tradition of Pride Week is to spread community building and provide a connection,” Carter said. “It’s a new set of obstacles and a new set of mistakes but we’re doing well, I think.”
The virtual format has also allowed for a more inclusive format for people who might not necessarily be able or want to go to bars, the traditional host for many Pride Week events, Hoagland said. It also allows performers from places like Los Angeles and New York City to video in.
“One of the cool things about these comedy events is it would be incredibly hard to get these performers here in person,” said Hoagland, who has been instrumental in organizing performers coming to visit Juneau in the past, Carter said. “Bringing folks to Alaska can sometimes be cost-prohibitive.”
Three out-of-town artists, Staceyann Chin, D’lo and Dewayne Perkins, have or will be performing for the week, videoing in from out of state.
“Watching her perform, it was as if she (Chin) was in the room,” Carter said. “The warmth of her voice, there was a strength there. It felt like we were at a live event.”
D’lo and Dewayne Perkins will be performing a comedy set on Friday, after a trivia night hosted by Abi Spofford on Thursday and preceding the week’s final even, the Glitz Drive-In Drag Show on Saturday evening.
“I hope it works for the broader vision of outdoor performance and new and innovative ways of live performing. Obviously outdoor performances in Juneau are difficult because we live in a rainforest,” Hoagland said. “We’ve got all the pieces there. It’s just getting on the same page and getting the motivation.”
The drive-in drag show is cohosted by University of Alaska- Southeast and the Gold Town Theater.
“I’ve been keeping my finger on the pulse on what’s been going on the performance world and especially the drag world,” Hoagland said. “The stage is covered. I’ll be hiding out in the box truck to host so we only have one performer on stage at a time. We’re gonna have a minimum crew to reduce risk. The university’s COVID safety committee has been involved every step of the way.”
As of Wednesday afternoon, Hoagland said, there were only 20 tickets left for the performance’s 7 p.m. showing and no tickets at all for the 9 p.m. showing. Hoagland said he was working on getting the technical wherewithal in place to broadcast the show, and hoped to have a go/no-go by Wednesday.
“I am definitely keeping tabs on what software is evolving and keeping up with our needs. I’m knee deep in trying to figure out how to livestream our Glitz drive-through,” Hoagland said. “Cords. There’s a general shortage of cords. This is my task today is figuring that out.”