Although I was born in Stamford, CT, our family moved to the Sullivan County Catskills when I was in first grade. I attended Narrowsburg Central Rural School, which educated about 300 students at a time from grades K-12. I graduated in 1983 with one of the LARGEST classes in Narrowsburg history with a whopping 36 people. I can’t tell you how special it felt (and at times constraining) to have virtually all of the same classmates throughout primary, middle and high school.
Last night I performed Homo No Mo to a very interesting audience of mostly straight people with the average age about 60. Not my typical demographic. Although they did not laugh as loud or often as most of my audiences, I could tell they listened deeply. Some of you who perform may understand how you can sense how an audience responds even when they remain quiet. I knew I did not have to rush, and indeed when I got to the scene where Chad has his breakdown over the loss of his brother, I heard sobbing in the theater.
Tonight we expect a packed house! The title The Re-Education of George W. Bush—No President Left Behind! sells the show and has brought me a whole new range of audience members who I have not previously seen at my “gay” shows.
A reporter from the local weekly paper, The Sullivan County Democrat interviewed me a few weeks ago at the Narrowsburg Roasters cafe. He took some photos including some of my dad reading and one of me talking (not a rare shot :-p). Ted Waddell’s piece should come out next week.
One of the other local weeklies, The River Reporter, did a short piece about me and my two plays. One man, one stage and a bevy of personalities. The interview felt like one of those public TV face to face with the artist sort of affair where they try to unearth the artist’s earliest roots.
“Growing up in Lake Huntington, the bus ride to school was at least 40 minutes each way. In order to entertain myself and my fellow riders, I created ‘The Peter Pumpkin Show,’ a variety show of sorts with multiple characters all played by me,” Toscano said of his first calling as a performer. “Here I was, a fourth grader captivating a high school audience. What power! What fun!”
The reporter also asked why I use comedy and how I became a character actor.
“Employing humor, as well as shape shifting to fit into different crowds, became a strategy to keep others from targeting me with insults or worse,” Toscano recalls. “Many oppressed minorities learn to take on multiple roles and characters in order to survive. Some of the finest one-person shows were created by people from oppressed groups, shows by Whoopi Goldberg, Lily Tomlin and John Leguizamo.”
For those of you who have seen Homo No Mo can only imagine how much fun it felt last night to perform the part of my dad with a room full of people who know and love him well, including my younger sister Maria, who saw the play for the first time last night. The charater of my dad proved to be the real crowd pleaser of the night. During the Q&A my dad even did his own stand up routine as he talked about his trip to the Homo No Mo Halfway House.
The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.