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‘Diva Practice’ review: self-made magic

Pepper Pepper's solo dance-drag performance takes audiences on a ride through the life cycle of a drag queen

by ANTHONY HUDSON

Being a diva is exacting and it’s lonely. Look at the tragic lives of Maria Callas, Judy Garland, and Edith Piaf. The life of a diva is one of expectation, work, and the pain that comes with it. For a freelance artist, drag queen, and dancer, the same is true – but with an obligation to say yes to any and every opportunity that could mark a big break or financial well-being. To become a diva takes practice – maybe even enough to break your back – and unless you’ve gone viral on social media or hit reality TV gold, you’re going to do all the hard work yourself. Luckily the perks of being a diva include champagne.

Pepper Pepper’s ‘Diva Practice (Solo).’ Photo: Chelsea Petrakis from 2017 Risk/Reward Festival.

Following last year’s Diva Practice duet with Mr. E and a months-long residency tour this spring and summer across the United States, Portland diva-in-the-making Pepper Pepper’s solo dance-drag piece Diva Practice presents the fruit of Pepper’s research into what it takes to summon the heightened feminine, the Diva. Think of it like a drag queen Consumer Reports, only as a dance piece complete with its own fragrance (for real: you can purchase OLO Fragrance’s “Pepper Spray” – it’s like poppers but Pepper! – in the lobby).

Sharing the stage with a suitcase, a webcam, a ring light, and a golden cape that would put Liberace to shame, Pepper summons the Diva and takes us on a ride through the life cycle of a drag queen. Equally dance and drag-based, the show takes on an earworm of a sonic element as well – throughout the piece Pepper only says “yes,” repeatedly, constantly, as many queens who have not yet ascended into RuPaul’s Gender Illusionist Correctional Institute must do to get by.

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