Aziza Bijoü, a Rochester drag performer, first took the stage of Auburn Public Theater at its Night of Wonders drag show in May.
When the show started, Bijoü said Wednesday, there were about 15 people in the audience. By the end, there were about 50. And as the crowd grew, she said, so did its enthusiasm for what it saw.
"The audience was into not only having a good time, but learning about who we are and what we do as drag performers," Bijoü said. "It's something I feel Auburn needs just by seeing that reaction."
To deliver that regular dose of drag, Bijoü will begin hosting and performing at Haüs of Wonders, a new monthly show at the theater. The first will take place July 5, and the show will continue there the first Friday of every month. Before that, though, Bijoü will also perform at a June 29 drag show at the theater that will serve as a finale for Auburn's Pride Week festivities.
Bijoü, 22, runs the Our Girls: Next Generation Dance company in Rochester. So her drag numbers are heavy on dance and staging, she said, with "wow factors" like glitter, wig and costume changes, and a confetti cannon. She used the latter at Night of Wonders, where she was asked to perform by host Raquel Devamp. Afterward, Bijou met theater Artistic Director Angela Daddabbo.
"She's amazing. She's a profoundly talented dancer," Daddabbo said. "High-energy, really great with the crowd and just really lovely to deal with."
After agreeing to host Haüs of Wonders, Bijoü immediately began planning the show. Because the area may not be as familiar with drag as bigger cities, she said, she wants to showcase the form's possibilities. Many think drag is just men lip syncing in women's clothes, she said, so she encourages her performers to showcase other talents, be they music, dance, magic or something else.
"Everybody's familiar with a singer, an actor, a magician," she said. "We're just like everybody else."
Bijoü said the popularity of drag is rising, due mainly to reality show "RuPaul's Drag Race" and the culture's presence on social media. And there are plenty of drag performers in neighboring cities like Rochester, Syracuse and Ithaca who are looking for places to perform. In Auburn, though, that community may not be there yet, Bijoü said. Drag performers are often approached after shows by people interested in taking the stage, she noted, sometimes even people already wearing drag. That didn't happen after her first Auburn performance — but she hopes it will after future ones.
"We can help people find the strength to come out and be a part of Haüs of Wonders," she said. "Thanks to Auburn for providing me a spot to share my love and energy."
Several other Pride Week events are scheduled in Auburn through this weekend:
• Talk: "Charlotte Cushman: Seward Family Friend and Symbol of an Age" from 7 to 8 p.m. Thursday, June 27, at the NYS Equal Rights Heritage Center, 25 South St., Auburn. Jeff Ludwig and Mat Mac Vittie of the Seward House Museum will present the story of Cushman, an actress and early figure in LGBTQ history. Free and open to the public. Visit sewardhouse.org.
• Filmmaker Erin Davies presents her documentary "Fagbug" at 1 p.m. and follow-up "Fagbug Nation" at 7 p.m. Friday, June 28, at Auburn Public Theater, 8 Exchange St., Auburn. Hosted by the Schweinfurth Art Center. Free and open to the public. Visit myartcenter.org.
• LGBTQ+ Pride Rainbow Rally at noon Saturday, June 29, at the NYS Equal Rights Heritage Center, 25 South St., Auburn. With featured artist Blake Chamberlain painting on site, music by CC Ryder and Diana Jacobs Band, speakers, face painting, vendors and more; takes place concurrently with Downtown Auburn Saturday Market. Free and open to the public. Visit auburnnypride.com.
• Forum "Following Our Rainbow: Parents on Supporting LGBTQ+ Children" at 3 p.m. Saturday, June 29, at the Cayuga Museum Carriage House Theater, 203 Genesee St., Auburn. With panelists Kim and Chris Patch, Julianne Sanders and Lauren Webb and moderator William Tenity. Free and open to the public. Visit auburnnypride.com.
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