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Feyonce began as a joke. It was 2009, Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies” had just torn up the charts, and Wayne Bund was at Breitenbush Hot Springs for a Radical Faerie gathering (per the group’s website: “really fun destination for faggot sissies to meet in the old growth”). As part of a “no talent show,” Bund corralled a trio of men to don slinky black outfits and perform the iconic dance routine from the “Single Ladies” video. It wasn't long before Bund—then a graduate student at the Pacific Northwest College of Art—was bringing Feyonce to local queer cabaret nights.

“My mother had passed about nine months before, and I had just done a show about grief,” Bund says. “I was getting to the place where I was done talking about grief and about my mother, so I was like, let’s do this Feyonce stuff.”

Now, almost a decade after Feyonce’s emergence, Bund unveils an hourlong solo show, Strong Female Protagonist. Bund—a first-grade teacher by day—describes it as “a hero’s journey of me becoming a drag queen.” Feyonce, after all, has had many iterations: she began as a silly act, morphed into a high-concept art-school project, and has now become a way to explore personal stories and ideas of femininity. Consistent throughout, however? Sequins and heels, but also a beard and body hair. Feyonce’s hip swivels and dips are energetic, sassy, and recognizably Beyoncé-inspired, but also a little … clumsy. “I like to follow in a tradition of low drag or messy drag,” Bund explains. “I like pointing to the gender binary, or in a way trying to take it down.”

Strong Female Protagonist has a hearty dash of queer theory—“Judith Butler becomes my feminist godmother,” Bund says—and plenty of drag numbers, from Unbreak My Heart” to “Proud Mary” to “Single Ladies” (thank goodness). But Bund’s relationship with his mother also plays a central role. Bund grew up in Boring, Oregon, in the ’80s and ’90s, and his mother was diagnosed with lupus when he was young. The two spent a lot of time at home together, watching MTV and VH1 and recording music videos on VHS tapes (ah, the golden age before YouTube). Bund thinks much of his “diva worship”—how he came to idolize stars like Tina Turner, Janet Jackson, and Toni Braxton—came from her. In the show, he plays his mother in prerecorded video snippets, and in a monologue about realizing your child is gay. “I was clueless I was gay,” Bund says. “I was in my own little world. But my mom was like, ‘Oh honey, it’s OK.’” 

Bund’s uncle—a gay man (and Radical Faerie himself) who died of AIDS-related complications when Bund was 10—also pops up in Strong Female Protagonist. The show's direction has surprised Bund: it’s a return to topics he avoided back in 2009. “In a way, this piece has become about me inhabiting the ghosts or ancestors of my life,” he says. “I never intended to do that. I never thought Feyonce would be about talking about grief and people who’ve passed in our lives.”

Strong Female Protagonist

8 p.m. Fri–Sat, 5 p.m. Sun, Feb 23–Mar 4, pay-what-you-will ($15 suggested)

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Strong Female Protagonist

8:00 PM Pay-what-you-will, $15 suggested Arlene and Harold Schnitzer Center for Art and Design

If you like your drag performances with a healthy injection of Judith Butler, Wayne Bund is here for you. In this comedic, multimedia solo show, the Portland...