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 it's watching, how they're coping, and where they're finding inspiration.
Artists Christine Quintana, Jiv Parasram, and Molly MacKinnon may be holed up together in a tight two-bedroom apartment on Commercial Drive, but they're taking on new projects in a big way. Parasram, artistic director of Rumble Theatre has just launched the company's new fully digital season from their digs, while playwright-actor Quintana and her frequent collaborator Molly MacKinnon have launched a show they premiered in workshop form at the 2018 rEvolver Festival and have converted into a digital at-home experience (click on goodthingstodo.ca, produced through Rumble). You know Parasram as the founding artistic producer of Pandemic Theatre and the hit show Take d Milk, Nah?; Quintana is a playwright of works like Selfie and Stationary: A Recession-Era Musical, who was chosen as Marcus Youssef's protégé when he won the Siminovitch Prize in 2017; she starred as Dorothy in a wildly popular East Van Panto: The Wizard of Oz two years ago. And violinist MacKinnon has brought the music to several theatre works, most notably a collaboration with Quintana on Never the Last, a music-theatre exploration of the life of the Russian-Canadian composer and violinist Sophie-Carmen Eckhardt-Gramatté.
No. 1 thing that’s getting you through
Christine: Getting to walk through our East Van neighbourhood every morning and watching spring slowly arrive on Coast Salish territory is a really grounding reminder of time, impermanence, and patience.
Christine: Jiv has been making bread (including some legendary focaccias), Molly baked a truly exceptional raspberry-chocolate coffee cake, and I have perfected the classic Mexican hangover breakfast: chilaquiles. Food is both an activity and a ritual, and has been important to us.
Jiv: I’ve been listening to a lot of bhajans, which are devotional songs in my tradition. Really solid music even if you don’t know what they’re saying. A lot of variety in there, but starting my day with the Hanuman Chalisa feels quite good. Otherwise, a whole lotta reggae.
Molly: Shakira’s 1993 classic album Dónde Están los Ladrones? has also really been hitting the spot, particularly while Christine and I sweat through our home-workout routine. And the Hadestown original-Broadway-cast album is another mainstay in our apartment.
Christine: A few weeks ago the live-streamed performance by local drag troupe the Darlings positively blew our minds with its innovation and incredible aesthetic within the digital form—their next show is on April 26, and we can’t wait. We also loved getting to watch the video of the heart-breaking Ballet BC production of Romeo + Juliet—we got dressed up, poured some wine, and pressed play right at 8 p.m. Of course, it’s not as good as being there in person, but for now it’s a great pleasure to support and acknowledge the work of our peers from our home. We also definitely cried through the finale of Schitt’s Creek.
Jiv: I tend to split off on my own, as Christine and Molly have kind of set up a good routine of watching stuff—sometimes digitally with friends across town, which is cool. I’m mainly listening to LeVar Burton Reads. It’s like reading Rainbow but more speculative fiction, and he really has tastes that hit home for me.
Creative or learning outlet
Molly: This week Christine and I open Good Things to Do, an installation theatre piece we created in 2018 which we’ve converted into a digital at-home experience. We’re really excited to share this unique piece with people, and to offer people an outlet to relax and find some calm.
Jiv: I’m learning a lot, quickly. I’ve been doing a lot of recording—my solo show Take d Milk, Nah? is coming out on CBC Podcasts' PlayME I believe this week, and I recorded it all from home while battling a loud cat. Rumble’s launching a digital season, which Christine and Molly’s Good Things to Do is part of. Meanwhile, I’ve been playing with a program called Isadora to create a digital rehearsal hall for Rumble’s upcoming show B, which is now being designed to be online. And Rumble has a podcast now called The Transmissions—so… I learned how to distribute a podcast pretty quick (iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify, et cetera).
Christine: It can be really hard to focus these days, and not every day feels particularly creative or productive. Sharing work and living space isn’t always easy, but we’re making it work and figuring new things out every week.
Molly: Every day Christine and I valiantly report to the living room for a series of Youtube exercise videos, while Jiv opts for a nice long walk. To be absolutely honest, this is the most I’ve worked out in my life. I hate it.
Christine: It has felt really important to balance paying attention to important community updates about how COVID-19 is affecting different communities (for example, the Migrant Rights Network is advocating for temporary foreign workers providing essential services to have equal access to federal relief programs), while also tuning out the cacophony of anxiety, fear mongering, shaming and judgement. We are lucky to be able to weather the storm in relative comfort, and need to stay looking out for those who aren’t—but in order to do that, we need to stay safe, calm, and compassionate.
Jiv: Practically, for me, it’s not that bad. I’ve had pretty severe clinical depression since I was 14, so there’s ups and downs—but just in the regular way. The hardest part is knowing that I really can’t be with my family (besides Christine and Molly) should something happen. Like, I couldn’t just get on a plane. My dad had a mild heart attack shortly after I got back to B.C.; my brother’s a cop in Nova Scotia and so that mass shooting that just happened felt close to home for a lot of reasons. But these dangers are always there. The thing that gets me through is taking alone time to recharge, meditate, walk—so that I can have something to offer back to the people around me. Consciousness is important. If we all come out the other end being a bit more conscious, that would be a great thing.