Creature Feature: The Diet Ghosts
Do you like The Twilight Zone? Scooby-Doo? Drag? If the answer to all these questions is yes, then you’re in luck! The Diet Ghosts have been haunting the west end of Toronto with their monthly show for a while now. From making the Beaver into an ’80s sorority-house slasher film, to turning the Oasis sex club into one giant murder-mystery party, this team is shaking things up and only getting better. Consisting of Lucinda Miu, Kitty Creature, Prince Johnny, Aura Nova, and Lady Kunterpunt, the Diet Ghosts gift audiences with elaborate music mixes, over-the-top storylines, stunning props, and fantastic personalities. We were lucky enough to speak with this ragtag group and pick their brains a bit about their history and influences, pulling the curtain on Oz but not being disappointed. So kick back and read as we crack open a refreshing can of Diet Ghosts.
How did you all come together?
Kitty Creature (25)
Initially the group came together when Prince Johnny, Lucinda, and I moved to Toronto a few years ago. Then when we really started to get to know the local drag community, we met Kunterpunt and Aura in a back alley somewhere and they threatened us with rusty prison shanks to let them join us, so we did, because we’re charitable people.
Lucinda Miu (26)
Our first official performance in the Toronto drag community was at Queen of Halloween 2017. Kitty played Frankenstein’s monster, Prince Johnny played Dr. Frankenstein, the late Swampwater Bitch played Igor, and I played the Bride. After the performance, Lady Kunterpunt and Aura Nova came up to me and said that what we’d just done was the kind of drag they wanted to do in the city.
Prince Johnny (Legal)
We lost Swampwater Bitch that same evening (at the aforementioned Queen of Halloween show) due to mental illness. With two new Diet Ghost members, we decided to cling together through our mourning process to create some punk-rock, kooky queer, gender-fuckery, loud, live, theatre magic for our West End community.
What prompted you to form this group?
Lady Kunterpunt (25 and a half)
In terms of the five of us, we had decided to work together and compete in the Empire’s Ball, hosted by Scarlett Bobo and Juice Boxx. It was a big drag-house battle royale, and us five freaks decided to band together and crush the competition. We lost the first round. But did we really? (yes).
What inspires your shows?
Aura Nova (21)
Horror tropes, Vines, crime, Broadway, cable commercials, capitalism, fear, amusement parks, nightmares, serial killers, game shows, old-school camp, and magic.
Our favourite movies, shows, video games, Virginia Woolf novels, childhood traumas, cookbook recipes, memes, and colours. I like red. Fun fact: every single one of our shows has had audio from World of Warcraft in it. Can you guess who the nerd in the group is? If you do, please tell us. We need to know. It’s tearing us apart.
What is it about your show that stands out?
There’s a certain amount of magic that occurs when the five of us get together. Our chemistry is part of it, but our creative cohesion behind the scenes is what really sets the tone for our productions. We are a little drag factory, and who doesn’t love a glittery assembly line
We always aim to tell a story, and we do that with sets, props, sound design, and narrative. We make use of fleshed-out characters unique to every show who interact, have relationships with each other, have motives and dreams. Every show you know you’re going to see Kunterpunt, but who is she going to be playing? A deck of haunted cards? A late-night TV psychic-medium? Perhaps a small-town conspiracy theorist with a suspicious grudge against the mayor? You always know what you’re gonna get at a Diet Ghost show, but at the same time, you have no idea what you’re gonna get. I like to think we keep people on their toes a bit. God knows we try our damned hardest
Each show seems to have a different narrative/theme. Do you all decide on them together, or does each of you pick an idea and alternate whose theme is next?
Essentially, each show’s theme has been born from us hanging out and blazing, often at Lakeview Diner, and talking about the most absurd references or stories and someone being like, “What if we did a show about THAT?” Or sometimes we’ll just be watching a movie or daydreaming on the streetcar and will get a random idea, and we usually end up doing the ones where we message each other and get responses of “OMG YESSSSSSSSSS I COULD BE LIKE, A __________.” We do sometimes, though, take turns picking months where someone can really make it their own unique theme and take creative control over it.
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Thank you to everyone who made our SCREAM-A-THON a success! Thanks to everyone who came out to Yonge & Dundas Square, we can continue to scare the children and haunt the masses. Don't forget to come out to Cloudy Corners! June 30th at The Beaver! An extra special thanks to @itsscarlettbobo and @juiceboxxofficial for putting on one hell of a night. We fucking love you both. Happy pride!
You folks have so many amazing props, backdrops, costumes, et cetera. Who makes them, or do you make them all together?
It’s a collaborative effort that shifts month by month, but a lot of us have different creative disciplines that we lend to the construction of each show’s materials. For example, I’m a sound designer and arrange all the mixes and mashups, Kunterpunt has a visual-arts background and paints our backdrops and window displays, Aura helms the design of each month’s poster, Prince Johnny creates some of our most intricate props, and Lucinda is a costumer who won’t hesitate to help someone craft a look from scratch (isn’t she just so maternal?)
What has been the single most iconic part of your shows to date?
Probably the time Lady Kunterpunt burst through a portrait of herself (as the Mona Lisa). Or when I nurtured an eight-foot-tall sea monkey that later split open to reveal Kitty as a mermaid.
Cloudy Corners, a show that this year’s provincial election results turned from a show about alien conspiracies into a stinging response to the growth of right-wing political dictatorship. Lucinda and Kunterpunt were rivals in the vote for mayor and ran around to the bar attendees announcing their platforms and handing out promotional buttons. I was a disease-ridden child-pageant star, so I sat in the back with the smokers and took pictures with the townsfolk – I mean, bar patrons.
What’s the dream show for the Diet Ghosts?
Diet Ghosts Present: FLAT EARTH, The Musical! We’d need an automated rotating set and holograms, too. I haven’t actually run this idea by the other ghosts yet, though. Maybe I should do that first. I think our *actual* dream show is this ridiculous Willy Wonka-inspired idea we’ve been cooking up: it’s just soooo twisted and far beyond the original concept. Trust me, when we finally do this show, you do not want to miss out.
My dream show would be an immersive takeover of a space with many different rooms, akin to Sleep No More, where the audience can travel through and experience a story at their own investigative pace. One show I’ve wanted to do in this style is Macbeth, but set in a 1970s millenarian cult.
I wanna open for the Rockettes!
Your shows tend to take over the entire space – you redecorate the venue and perform on more than just the stage. Is that something you wanted to do when you started, or was it just an idea that organically happened while brainstorming for the shows?
Immersive theatre has been our goal since day one. We want to give as much as we can to everyone who comes to our show, and transforming the space so we can all live the Diet Ghost fantasy together is a huge part of that.
The Beaver was our first space, and I automatically knew I wanted to flip the script. Each space has and is its own character, and it’s always been a fruitful relationship to develop when curating a show there. The Beaver isn’t a theatre, so why not celebrate that rather than ignore it?
What do you want people to take from your shows?
There’s so many incredible queer events happening every weekend, so really all I hope people leave with is that they chose the right one to go to. That they shared an experience that goes beyond what can be recorded and nobody else can understand unless they come to the next one. You never know how a crowd of drunk alternative queer people are going to respond to the various things we throw at them, but when going through the bar and noticing people discussing things related to the theme, reading the stuff we put up on the walls, or even arguing about who they believe the murderer in the murder mystery was, it thaws our cold hearts and inspires us to go bigger, better, weirder each time.
Me. Take me home.
What is the one song and one iconic pop-culture character you would use to describe yourself?
Lady Kunterpunt // @LadyKunterpunt
“What Dreams are Made of,” The Lizzie McGuire Movie
Kitty Creature // @kittycreaturecomforts
Song: “Hey Little Rich Girl,” Amy Winehouse
Character: Cruella de Vil
Lucinda Miu // @lucindamiu
Song: “On the Sunny Side of the Street,” Billie Holiday
Character: Tippi Hedren
Prince Johnny // @xprincejohnnyx
*got onto a motorcycle and drove off before finishing the interview … that boy, I tells ya*
Aura Nova // @aura.nova
Song: “Moonlight,” Surfing
Character: Salem Saberhagen
All photos taken by the other worldly Quinton Cruickshanks.