Rita Lynn knows how to mix outrageous entertainment with essential knowledge.
With her Femmes of Music series at Northeast Portland’s Local Lounge (3536 NE Martin Luther King Jr Blvd.), Lynn uses drag to present a history of unsung femme heroes in music. It was successful enough that the bar gave her the opportunity to create another biweekly show. She wanted to do something intellectual—she has a master’s degree in American studies, after all—without having to drag a bookshelf into the bar every week.
What she came up with was Stupid Bitch Club, a semi-farcical drag TEDTalk.
“I really enjoy both drag with a concept, drag with this academic background, but also just fucking stupid drag,” Lynn says. “I try to situate SBC between the two.”
Every other Tuesday, Lynn convenes a five-member panel onstage to discuss issues that don’t exclusively intersect with queerness but still need to be talked about in queer circles. One recent revue focused on toxic masculinity, with drag kings portraying chauvinistic caricatures pulled from real-life experiences. During Pride, Lynn hosted “Binary Benders,” with more than two dozen trans and nonbinary performers.
In future installments, Lynn plans to explore topics like colonial deconstruction and sex work, and host what she calls an “existentialist extravaganza.”
But Lynn remains conscious of being irreverent without being mean-spirited. She also knows there are certain issues that won’t work well in a show called Stupid Bitch Club, such as racism.
“As we’re all collectively, as a queer community, trying to figure out what the future looks like, and I’m the one who’s shouting on the mic what that future should be, I need to set a good example,” she says. “If people tell me it’s not my place to open up space for whatever reason, then the best thing I can do is say, ‘You know what? You’re right, fair enough. I’ll take a step back.’”