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Of Kings and Queens

Homegrown drag shows pop up in Bend

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Madam Richard Tucker. - TEALA RAE
  • Teala Rae
  • Madam Richard Tucker.

I moved to Bend in the summer of 2003, the very same month an attack on a gay man outside The Grove on Bond Street shook this community, and myself, in the process. I had grown up in a very liberal part of the world—in high school, the next town over from mine was even named the "San Francisco of the East." It was my own little bubble of inclusion and loving humans in all forms that was harshly popped the very same month I decided to make Bend my new home.

Fifteen years later, like many of us here in this community, I lament some of the changes that have come with the growth: traffic, for one, and crowds at all of my favorite cafes and swimming spots. But I will happily accept all of these inconveniences for the benefits this growth has also created—primarily a thriving LGBTQ community that feels safe and loved enough to now venture out into the world of drag.

Thanks to the great work of Human Dignity Coalition, Bend's had its share of drag shows for the last 15 years. But this August, two homegrown shows are hitting the stage, allowing our own local LGBTQ community to express themselves authentically and beautifully for the first time on their home turf.

First up is "The Cult of Tuck," an offshoot of the Bend Burlesque Company, taking place at Silver Moon Brewing on Friday night, Aug. 3. The variety show, created by Bend Burlesque member Alex Simpson, features many new drag queens who have been working on their personas and looks for quite some time. Now they have a stage to share their characters.

Simpson will host the event as his drag persona, Madam Richard Tucker. He started doing his own drag just last year. While he had been working on his look and makeup, it was an outing with a friend to the "Hey Honey" queer dance party last June that convinced Simpson that this was his calling.

"I was a hot mess, but I had the time of my life that night," recalls Simpson. From there, he didn't look back. Other Bend Burlesque members convinced Simpson to perform as his drag persona, which was met with enthusiasm and great support from the audience. Now Simpson wants to share that audience with others.

Many of the acts are performing for the first time, including drag kings and even a drag queen who is not a gay man, something that can often be controversial in the gay community. There are also two non-drag acts that Simpson believes will add to the "love vibe" they are hoping to create for the LGBTQ community.

The following week, you can also catch the "Queens of the High Desert" show, put on by Lonely Fish Productions at 2nd Street Theater. Matt Vigil, the producer of the show, is a young and enthusiastic member of the ever-growing theater community, often producing shows that are a little edgier and serve to celebrate pop culture such as, "Heathers: The Musical" and "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." Vigil and the show's director Raechel Gilland describe the event as a variety show of developing performers who have brought unique and lovely new characters to life.

Their show sounds like a beautiful and natural evolution of creativity, allowing for the performers to bring forth authentic and personal stories in a new and exciting way. The show will also feature an interview by drag queen Lady Diane Butterscotch of drag king Larry Kingley about his experiences with discovering his gender fluidity. And while many of the performers have never performed before, Gilland adds their sheer determination and hard work have been paying off and the level of performance they are bringing is inspiring and impressive.

Perhaps you want in on this budding and beautiful drag scene—well, you can give it a try, too. OUT Central Oregon hosts regular kikis, or drag get-togethers, welcoming anyone who would like to try out drag for themselves. Organizer Dan Young describes the events as casual get-togethers where beginners to drag can learn new makeup techniques, get feedback and support from others and feel included in this growing community.

"When I moved to Bend five years ago, you couldn't even do this then. Now, you can and there are a lot of thirsty children out there. We want them to know there is a place for them," says Young.

Since most of the regular attendees are busy working on their acts for upcoming shows, there aren't any meetups until fall, but you can find more information on OUT Central Oregon's Facebook page. They also host "Oh Yessss," a regular night at The Dogwood Cocktail Cabin on the third Thursday of the month where many folks come dressed in drag.

There were times living here when I never thought this could happen in our little, isolated town. But here we are, exactly where we should be—in the midst of a growing town that is welcoming a budding LGBTQ community to safely, lovingly and inspiringly blossom in very authentic and beautiful ways.

The Cult of Tuck
Friday, Aug. 3 at 9:30pm
Silver Moon Brewing
24 NW Greenwood Ave., Bend
bendticket.com
$20

Queens of the High Desert
Friday & Saturday, Aug. 10-11 at 8pm
2nd Street Theater
220 NE Lafayette Ave., Bend
bendticket.com
$18/GA, $24/VIP

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