Doin’ Time in Providence & Philadelphia

I had an EXCELLENT weekend which began on Thursday in Providence’s Lincoln School for the Quaker Youth Leadership Conference. Organizers asked me to give a keynote address and that they chose art and activism for their theme. Instead of giving a traditional speech, I performed The Re-Education of George W. Bush—No President Left Behind! Here you see a photo of Vlad doing his now infamous dance. Thanks to Fabian from Brooklyn Friends School for the photo!

On Friday morning I got up early to take the train down to Philadelphia where I performed the Bush play that evening at Calvary United Methodist Church. The following night I presented Doin’ Time in the Homo No Mo Halfway House at Germantown United Methodist.

Here you see a photo of me after the show with two high schoolers from Germantown. Thanks to Bill Ewing for this photo.

After performing the Bush play twice in a row, I feel stoked to get it out there. The piece has settled in to where I think it should be and the characters exude lots of passion especially after some recently tuning I did to Marvin’s monologue and part of Tex’s.

From the title lots of folks assume that in the play I just stand around and bash Bush. Yawn. Please! my creativity allows me to go beyond that simple exercise to something more complex and necessary. The Philadelphia Gay News ran an interview on page 39 in their Friday 2/8 edition where I talk about the Bush play and some of what happens in it. You can read it here.

The play helps me explore and express the outrage I feel right now. So many things inspire outrage in my country and in the world right now. Cutting taxes while going to a war under false pretenses. The on-going prisoner abuse and torture in our prisons and detention centers within our borders and the countries we occupy. The tremendous waste we create in the US. The unhealthy foods the industrial complexes pump out all the while trashing the planet. The inequity and privilege that Hurricane Katrina exposed still exists in America because of racial and class differences. The sickening ways that some descendants of European immigrants react to immigrants from other parts of the Americas. Lots of reasons for outrage.

Some folks think that since Quakers maintain a Testimony of Peace and advocate non-violence that our faith forbids us from feeling and expressing anger. I joked this weekend that as a Quaker I don’t get violent, just passive aggressive. It’s funny because it so often is true. When we stuff our anger, it pops out in all sorts of toxic and unhelpful ways.

No, as a Quaker because of the Testimony of Integrity, I need to express my anger. I must not shrink from conflict but acknowledge it and its causes. We feel outrage for a reason. That passion moves us to action. Otherwise we suck it up and grow bitter and tense and aggressive in indirect ways.

I process many feelings and experiences through art and through comedy. Comedy can be a violent tool wielded to rip people to shreds or it can be a prophetic device used to expose the ironies of our times, injustice and hypocrisy. Anyone can make fun of another person. That requires little skill. But to explore my outrage and its causes has taken me some time. It took nearly three years to write my Bush play.

Over the weekend I also got to hang out with some amazing Young Adult Friends in Philadelphia and others who visited. Ah, speak about passion! These folks care about the planet, their neighborhoods, and very much about God and knowing God. I felt inspired and challenged by their lives and actions.

(Oh, and we played a raucous game of Simpsons Clue–It was Mr. Smithers (dressed as a maid) in the Nuclear Power Plant with a poisoned donut!)

This post has 8 Comments

  1. Noa Resare on February 13, 2008 at 1:59 pm Reply

    How utterly unrealistic. Waylon Smithers would never kill the love of his life, Mr Burns. Please.

    I feel happy for those New England people though, that got to taste the fruits of some east/west cultural exchange in the form of Vlad dancing.

  2. Liz Opp on February 13, 2008 at 6:02 pm Reply

    Hey, Peterson.

    Sounds like you again are onto something with The Reeducation of George W. Bush. I hope I’ll have a chance to see it soon.

    I think it’s very important that we find appropriate ways to express our anger and outrage, while also waiting to understand how it is that God wishes for us to use our anger in constructive ways.

    And that’s one thing I’ve admired about you, is how consistently you’ve sat with a thing, despite the swirl of high emotions within you, and you’ve waited to let the Light reveal to you how to stay faithful to your feelings and to the promptings of the Spirit.

    No easy task, to be sure.

    And yet when you are ready to speak, to speak out, to perform, there is also a motion of Love undergirding your remarks that allows barriers to melt, or at least quiver.

    Keep up the good, faithful, and loving work.

    Blessings,
    Liz Opp, The Good Raised Up

  3. jez on February 14, 2008 at 3:13 pm Reply

    ‘Don’t you just love living in a free country?’ writes the journalist.

    God bless America. No, really, God bless America. You need God’s blessings!

  4. wess on February 14, 2008 at 3:34 pm Reply

    I’m with you on the anger = country part, it’s really a lot of this stuff is so frustrating! Thanks for doing this stuff Peterson, it sounds like it was a fun time!

  5. C/W on February 14, 2008 at 4:25 pm Reply

    Do you worry that people will think this play irrelevant come 20 Jan 08?

  6. Peterson Toscano on February 14, 2008 at 5:14 pm Reply

    No Worries C/W, this show is for a limited time only, while supplies last.

  7. boredbeyondbelief on February 15, 2008 at 12:36 am Reply

    The first picture reminds me of that strip tease you tried to do when you stayed at my place in LA. Dear God, how did I survive that visit?

  8. Peterson Toscano on February 15, 2008 at 5:52 am Reply

    Joe, whatever did you do with those photos you took of me??? I always worry they will pop up on the Internet somewhere and ruin my career :-p

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