Category: Interview

Doin’ Time with Tony Campolo

Back in 2003 at one of the very first public performances of Doin’ Time in the Homo No Mo Halfway House, I met Peggy Campolo, the very pro-LGBTQ wife of Christian writer and speaker, Tony Campolo. While Tony offered a kinder, gentler approach towards the gays compared to his fellow Evangelicals, it would take almost 15 more years before Tony came out in support of full inclusion and affirmation of LGBTQ people.

Through the years I poked and prodded, but mostly avoided conversations with Tony. Instead I hung out with Peggy at LGBTQ faith conferences or for meals outside of Philadelphia when Tony was on the road. But since Tony has come around it has been a joy getting to know him. We have had chats now about LGBTQ issues, the Bible and about climate change.

He will appear on an upcoming episode of Citizens Climate Radio to talk about his 1992 book, How to Rescue the Earth without Worshipping Nature. He was way ahead of the curve with that book with his prescription that part of the way to address overconsumption and the destruction of the earth is for men to rethink their ideas of masculinity.

This week Tony had me on his Red Letter Christians Across the Pond weekly radio show that airs in the UK on the conservative  Premiere Christian Radio network. We cover a lot of ground including my own struggles with being gay and Christian, and what it took to get me to come to my senses. We talk Bible, church, and a whole lot more. You can hear it here.

What is That Feeling You Are Feeling? Coronavirus and Processing Grief

Waking up in a panic.
Suddenly feeling confused and listless.
Wanting to be with people and all alone at the same time.

As the Coronavirus outbreak relentlessly spreads, and life as we know it is frozen in place, a wave of grief is crashing over so many of us. For some it is the mourning of a loved one or the grief that comes from being sick, isolated, and frightened.

It may also be what grief expert, David Kessler, calls Anticipatory Grief:

Anticipatory grief is that feeling we get about what the future holds when we’re uncertain. Usually it centers on death. We feel it when someone gets a dire diagnosis or when we have the normal thought that we’ll lose a parent someday. Anticipatory grief is also more broadly imagined futures. There is a storm coming. There’s something bad out there. With a virus, this kind of grief is so confusing for people. Our primitive mind knows something bad is happening, but you can’t see it. This breaks our sense of safety. We’re feeling that loss of safety. I don’t think we’ve collectively lost our sense of general safety like this. Individually or as smaller groups, people have felt this. But all together, this is new. We are grieving on a micro and a macro level.

Kessler sat down for an interview with the Harvard Business Review and spoke with Senior Editor Scott Berinato about the stress many of us feel today. I learned about the article on Twitter through Jacob J. Erickson.

In addition to helping me identify the strong, complicated feelings I have right now, Kessler gives some practical steps about how to address these feelings.

Anticipatory grief is the mind going to the future and imagining the worst. To calm yourself, you want to come into the present. This will be familiar advice to anyone who has meditated or practiced mindfulness but people are always surprised at how prosaic this can be. You can name five things in the room. There’s a computer, a chair, a picture of the dog, an old rug, and a coffee mug. It’s that simple. Breathe. Realize that in the present moment, nothing you’ve anticipated has happened. In this moment, you’re okay. You have food. You are not sick. Use your senses and think about what they feel. The desk is hard. The blanket is soft. I can feel the breath coming into my nose. This really will work to dampen some of that pain.

You can also think about how to let go of what you can’t control. What your neighbor is doing is out of your control. What is in your control is staying six feet away from them and washing your hands. Focus on that.

There is a lot of helpful information in the piece. I encourage you find quiet time to sit and slowly read That Discomfort You’re Feeling Is Grief. For me just doing that helped reduce some of the anxiety. Naming the feelings enabled me to approach them.

(Featured Photo by Kristina Tripkovic on Unsplash)

Discussing Transfigurations with Inglorious Pasterds

The Terds had me back! Back in November I appeared on the raucous Inglorious Pasterds podcast to talk about climate change as a faith issue and an LGBTQ issue. This time we talk Transfigurations, the movie. After watching it, the hosts and guest hosts cracked open a wide ranging conversation about gender roles both ancient and modern. We also went off-topic in the most delicious and disturbing ways. But that is half the fun of the show.

If you have never heard this podcast, know that it is hilarious. The jokes come fast. The references are sharp. It goes from sublime philosophical references to the most banal pop culture and poop humor. It’s great fun. They describe their podcast this way: Three former pastors from the midwest talking about spirituality, news & all the things.

In addition to regular hosts, Michael Baysinger and Matt Polley, guest hosts Joshua M Casey and Laura Beth Taylor kept the conversation flowing. Laura Beth is the author of Shattering Masks, Affirming my Identity. Transitional my Faith, and continually cracked me up with perfectly timed one-liners. Being transgender, she deepened the conversation about gender–roles, stereotypes, and identity.

If you want a good time while taking in a conversation about gender and the Bible, check out Ep 105 of Inglorious Pasterds.

Transpantastic Podcast interview: Finding queer Bible characters

The hosts of Tranpantastic asked me how I decided to create Transfigurations, a performance lecture and film, about gender non-conforming Bible characters. I told them a story about a British gay Christian retreat I led back in 2005. We were doing bibiliodrama, an exploration of Bible stories through theater and roleplaying, and we focused on LGBTQ issues and possible characters.

During a break one of the participants pulled me aside and said, “I found another gay character in the Bible!”  My queer Bible scholar ears perked up, “Yes?”

“The story of man with the pitcher of water. You know when Jesus and the disciples needed a room where they could have the Last Supper. Jesus said ‘find a man with a pitcher of water and he would lead them to the room.’ Well back then men didn’t carry water. It was women’s work. So he was gay!”

I understood the man’s enthusiasm. After being told in thousands of ways that gay men are not welcome, not normal, not natural, and not part of the kingdom of God, we can become desperate to find representations of people like us in history, literature, and especially in the sacred texts used to bash us.

“Or the person may have been transgender or gender non-conforming,” I suggested. This story reveals gender transgression. Even the conservative leaning NIV Study Bible notes for Mark 4:13, Luke 22:10 “It would have been unusual to see a man carrying a jar of water, since this was normally women’s work.” Transgression of gender led to Upper Room, Last Supper & Holy Communion today.

I said something like, “This is really interesting! There is something definitely queer in this story, but I think it is a stretch to say the person is gay. We can’t be stealing trans people’s stories.”

People confuse gender and orientation all the time. A guy is seen as fem,  and people assume he is gay. They might be right. There is often a crossover. In my case I was called sissy before anyone called me gay or a fag. But the world is more complex than that–there are other possibilities to consider. Also, for cis gay guys like me, it is not all about us.

The exchange between the retreat participant got me thinking, are there other stories like this in the Bible, of people who break the rules around gender or rise above them? That got me on the path that led to the Transfigurations presentation.

I talk about this, plus a very holy placenta, and a lot more. You can hear the entire interview over at Tranpantastic. It’s on iTunes, Stitcher, or just listen from the site.

TPT#243 – You Can’t Be Stealing Trans People’s Stories (Performer, Scholar, and Activist, Peterson Toscano)

We’re blessed today to speak with our favorite “cissy”, Peterson Toscano. Through his one-person comedies and lively lectures, he has delighted audiences throughout North America, Europe, and Africa as he takes on social justice concerns. His plays and talks humorously explore the serious topics of LGBTQ issues, sexism, racism, privilege, gender, and climate change


Peterson’s Quickie Interview with Dr. Jalonne L. White-Newsome of WE ACT for Environmental Justice

Last month at the Citizens Climate Lobby (CCL) annual conference and lobbying days, I attended a workshop on Environmental Justice led by Dr. Jalonne L. White-Newsome. Like many environmental organizations, CCL is uncomfortably and almost exclusively white (oh, and heterosexual, but that’s for another post.) With CCL’s goal to place a fee or tax on greenhouse gases with proceeds of the collected fee given as a refund to households to help with the inevitable rising energy costs, CCL seems genuinely interested in looking out for the interest of poor and working class people while lobbying for pragmatic energy policy. In hopes of educating its members about the environmental concerns of  people of color, CCL invited Dr. White-Newsome to talk about justice and the environment and the work of WE ACT for Environmental Justice, the organization based in Harlem, NYC for which Dr. White-Newsome works as their federal policy analyst. 

First a little about WE ACT for Environmental Justice:

West Harlem Environmental Action, Inc. (WE ACT for Environmental Justice) is a Northern Manhattan community-based organization whose mission is to build healthy communities by assuring that people of color and/or low-income participate meaningfully in the creation of sound and fair environmental health and protection policies and practices. As a result of our ongoing work to educate and mobilize the more than 630,000 residents of Northern Manhattan on environmental issues affecting their quality of life, WE ACT has become a leader in the nationwide movement for environmental justice, influencing the creation of federal, state and local policies affecting the environment.

Peggy Shepard, Executive Director of WE ACT with Chuck Sutton one of the first protests

Peggy Shepard, Executive Director of WE ACT with Chuck Sutton one of the first protests

Since its inception in 1988, WE ACT has grown to the point where it is now reaching out beyond its neighborhoods in Northern Manhattan to play a key role in national environmental justice legislation. Years ago when I attended City College in Harlem and lived on West 146th Street between Broadway and Amsterdam, I saw firsthand some of the actions organized by WE ACT as they demanded justice in addressing the dangers of the North River Wastewater Treatment Plant, a massive sewage treatment complex that stretches along the Hudson River from 137th to 145th Street. In the early 1960’s the city originally intended to build the sewage treatment plant near 72nd Street, but the white community there insisted it go elsewhere, so the city fathers dumped it on the citizens of Harlem.

In July 2011 the treatment plant erupted in flames and smoke from a fire in an engine room. In a News One story, Racial Backstory Behind Harlem’s Sewage Plant Explosion, Peggy Shepard, Executive Director of WE ACT, shared some of the history of environmental justice/injustice in NYC. Although hopeful that the city is responding better now than in the past, she also raised some on-going concerns.

Today, all of Manhattan’s sewage treatment plants are located above 96th Street, which for many years was “the line” that separated white Manhattan from Black.

The plant sparked the founding of the very first African-American-led environmental organization in New York, West Harlem Environmental Action (WE ACT). Peggy Shepard, WE ACT’s Executive Director, says that it’s always been difficult to track the exact effects of the plant on human health. “It’s hard to know now without doing certain kind of tests, but we know to be cautious because of bacteria and other human health issues.”

Wednesday’s fire and sewage discharge illustrates the continuing struggle to rectify the asthma, infant mortality other environmentally influenced statistics that are so high in poor urban areas. And yet, Shepard, hopes that things may be improving.

“I have found the Department of Environmental Protection to be pretty responsive. These events do occur but I think the city is handling a bad situation. It wasn’t that way when we started working on things in the Koch administration,” Shepard said of WE ACT’s early battles with the city to secure adequate measures. “The subsequent administrations have been very responsive.”

Last month in Washington, DC hearing Dr. White-Newsome speak about the work of WE ACT, the environmental justice (ej) movement, and her challenge to CCL, a mostly white, middle-class environmental group, I reached out to her for this interview.


Question One: I heard you speak at the Citizens Climate Lobby annual conference. You are a brilliant presenter. From hearing comments from CCL members that day and the next, your presentation made an impact and opened up a number of climate activists to the reality of environmental injustice and the need to pursue solutions that will promote it. With all of the issues in the world that demand attention, what has drawn you to do environmental justice work and what sustains you?

I am a native of Detroit, Michigan and from a young age, I was intrigued by environmental science, specifically looking at urban pollution. As I progressed through school, and worked in the industrial sector, it became even more apparent that certain communities were worse off than others. That communities of color, and areas that were low on the socioeconomic spectrum, suffered more. It is ludicrous that in the 21st century, people in the US are living – in some cases – like they are living in underdeveloped countries. The fact that many of the challenges we started working on when the environmental justice movement began in the 70s, are still a challenge now, sustains me. The fact that people are still getting sick, dying, being forced to live with trash, breath in dirty air and live near toxic facilities – is unacceptable – especially when we have laws and regulations that are supposed to protect our health, life and welfare. So the quest for environmental justice continues on.

Question Two: In your experience working for environmental justice (ej) where have you seen meaningful partnerships develop in this work among groups or demographics who may not initially have had any engagement in environmental justice? What makes these partnerships successful?

I am a somewhat of a ‘newbie’ in the ej movement, so the answer to this question is totally dependent on perspective. What is interesting is that there are some ‘really authentic collaborations’ that have developed between unlikely partners.  However, there have been many moments in the past – on both the national and local level – where the strife between mainstream environmental and conservation groups, for example, have not included an ej perspective in their work and advocacy, purposefully. These past ‘ills’ in some cases, still breed feelings of mistrust from the ej community. However, in the time I have been engaged, slowly but surely, those in the environmental community – well, some – realize that you cannot have a WIN if ALL voices don’t work together. If the fight is ‘climate change’, well, you need those that are most impacted to help ‘make the case’ against those sectors/people/organizations that are more funded and more positioned to make more ‘noise’ that we can. Successful partnerships to me are founded on respect, authenticity and a common goal. I have had the opportunity to work with mainstream enviros, groups of faith, politicians and many others in my advocacy and it has been a wonderful experience. But there is still a long way to go.

Question Three: You shared some similar thoughts at the Citizens Climate Lobby, and I remember how striking your answer was then. I appreciate your honesty and directness. In fact, it is one of the main reasons I wanted to interview you. As you continue to lobby and organize for environmental justice, what does success look like for you and for WE ACT? 

Personally, success is pretty specific to me…and would include: getting environmental justice legislation passed in Congress; having mainstream environmental organizations, Congressional staff seeking out OUR voices to be a part of the policy making process; acquiring the resources to sustain a building and staff for our ej federal policy office, with a full staff in Washington DC; increasing federal Agency accountability through the development of a annual scorecard to assess how well Agencies are doing to adhere to the Executive Order on Environmental Justice.  


We Want Clean Air - Community Protest

WE ACT members speaking out

Many thanks to Dr. Jalonne L. White-Newsome for taking the time to answer my questions. Please take some time to visit the WE ACT for Environmental Justice website. It has helpful and insightful resources including Principles of Environmental Justice, links to WE ACT publications, and the WE ACT theory of Change diagram (see below) Also, consider making a donation to contribute to Dr. White-Newsome’s and WE ACT’s vital work.

Come back soon for more Quickie Interviews and check out past interviews with Marlo Bernier and Rev. Nancy Wilson. Stay tuned for more  interviews soon; I have been talking to some pretty amazing people.

(All photos and graphics come directly from the WE ACT website.)

Peterson’s Quickie Interview with Nancy Wilson, Moderator of the MCC

Daily Devotions to White House Visits to Climate Change & Ever Evolving Social Justice

Meet Rev. Elder Nancy Wilson, a queer national treasure

I first saw Nancy Wilson sitting next to Paula, her wife/partner/significant other (she addresses Paula’s title below) in the front row of a Metropolitan Community Church (MCC) in Florida laughing her ass off while I performed Doin’ Time in the Homo No Mo Halfway House. We then met up a few years later at the European Forum of Gay and Lesbian Christians.  That time I got to see Nancy “perform” as she gave a keynote address. Hearing her speak with such authority, compassion, and cutting edge insights about gender and the queer movement, I began to understand why she has been such a cherished leader both in the MCC and in the wider queer world. I have been impressed and, yes, blessed by the Rev. Elder Nancy Wilson, moderator of the Metropolitan Community Church, and I have just three questions for Nancy. She doesn’t waste a word and packs her answers with insight, wisdom, and humor. She is also freakishly photogenic!

If you do not know this amazing person, here is a bio from the MCC site:

Rev. Elder Dr. Nancy Wilson

Nancy WilsonRev. Elder Dr. Nancy Wilson has been Moderator of MCC since 2005. She began her ministry with MCC at the age of 22 as Associate Past or at MCC Boston in 1972.

Rev. Wilson is an Associate Minister with The Fellowship, and in 2011 was appointed by President Barack Obama to the President’s Advisory Council of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.

Rev. Wilson obtained her B.A. from Allegheny College, her M.Div. from St. Cyril and Methodius Seminary, and her D.Min. from Episcopal Divinity School.

Question One: In 1972, when you were 22 years old, you began your ministry with the Metropolitan Community Church, and you have been with the MCC ever since. What are some ways in which you are similar to that 22 year old Rev. Nancy Wilson, and in what ways are you radically different today?

I believed then, at 22, that young people could change the world, with our passion for change, justice, with our undiminished hope. I was someone who had already been stirred by the civil rights movements and the anti-war movement, which had a huge impact on my consciousness.  I had a pastor’s heart then, and do now, it is one of the most powerful lenses I have on the world. I loved the prophets and identified as a follower of Jesus. That has not changed.

At 22, I was not as sophisticated about racial or sexual and gender politics.  Since then, I have been through our holocaust, AIDS, and the suffering and redemptive relationships, dealing with life and death on a daily basis when I pastored MCC in Los Angeles has changed me. I also became a cross-cultural learner, who pastored a bilingual congregation, and have had the privilege to travel the world, meeting with activist, sharing the message of MCC’s transgressively inclusive gospel.

I am a little more skeptical about politics, and feel like my eyes have been opened about the destructive power to corrupt – money and politics.  I know that activism cannot be episodic, it must be sustained, fearless and committed, even when hope seems dim.

I have become a birdwatcher!  And that view of nature has also radicalized me even more about the planet, our health and survival.

I have to say that marriage equality seemed like an impossible dream to me at 22 – then, I thought of marriage as only an oppressive, patriarchal institution!  Maybe as women have changed heterosexual marriage in some cultures, and as same sex marriage has gained acceptance, my view has shifted. Paula, my wife of 37 years, likes me to call her “wife,” though that seems like a really alien to me – she says it is clear and unequivocal, and she is right. I am adjusting.

Hopefully, I am still as eager to learn, and change, and be challenged as I was . . .

At 22, I had no idea I would be a frequent guest of the White House, and also march for equality in Jamaica, and speak at an LGBT Center in China about religion and homosexuality! The world is a surprising place, thank God!!


Question Two:  Great leaders and influential people of faith are often highly disciplined people with important and sometimes mundane daily routines that keep them grounded, informed, and sharp. What are some regular disciplines that you have developed through the years that sustain you and have become essential in your life, relationships, and work?

It seems I am a person of habits, and many are good (not all. . .). I am a morning person, and I read the New York Times, and pray my way through it. That can take a while.  . .Then I journal some. I try to be accountable in the journaling, for commitments to myself, in particular, and reflect on the day before. The journal is full of prayers, intercessory prayers.

I then read from 2 or 3 daily devotional books. I am a fan of God Calling, a very dated devotional, but, it is uncanny in it’s prescience.  Sentimentally, I still include it. I have used the Celtic Daily prayer book (Richard Foster), a rich compendium. I am currently using Your True Home by Thich Nhat Hanh. He is amazing – I did a retreat with him more than a decade ago with a close friend. That friend and I text daily about the reading – we rarely both miss a day – and that is wonderful. You have to have soul friends who are drawn to the same teachers and sources.

I try to read 4 scripture texts, daily, but, sometimes only get to one. If I have only time or patience for one, I read a Psalm. I read a Hebrew scripture passage, a gospel passage and an epistle passage, I just go through it all, and start again from the beginning of each of these. I have done this since New Year’s Day in 1981.

And, of course, since I preach, there is study and reflection time for that as well. It is always challenging to find new sources, new commentaries, new perspectives. I preach from the lectionary, since it forces me to preach from scriptures I may not be as fond of. . .

Besides morning, I love to walk, and bird watch. Mostly, during that time, I try to just be grateful, open and curious.

Rev. Dr. Mona West introduced me to some online sources – like which I love. I love the virtual labyrinth, and lighting virtual candles.  I use those occasionally.

When I am in my car, I often listen to news. But, in the last year, I have fasted some from that. Then, I listen to classical music instead, or, I try to just be present and attentive and quiet.

Al anon was a life-saver for me years ago. I still think of the 12 step caution, “HALT: don’t get too hungry, angry, lonely or tired.” They have great tools, like the “Detachment” pamphlet, and prayers like “Just for Today.” Those are incredible, in very tough times.

When I am discouraged, in a deep way, I create gratitude lists, and I find that simple exercise lifts my spirit.

Also, change your routine, from time to time. Spent more time outdoors.  For me, being near water is healing.

If I get too far from these helps, I make poorer choices, am less kind, less healthy.

Traveling makes this difficult at times. I have had to find creative way to bring my routine on the road, and to forgive myself when it gets interrupted, and always to get back on my path.

When I travel, I often find friends to walk with, that is enormously helpful.

I also write poetry, that is spiritual in nature. I don’t care much about publishing them, they are really like my children. I polish them and nurture them, and improve them from time to time. They are rarely finished. A few are perfect!

I also play the piano, not enough. . . It is a percussion instrument, so it is physically taxing, which makes it therapeutic for me. I love playing old hymns. . .


Question Three: Lately you have expressed a concern about global warming. As a queer person of faith, what are your concerns and where do you look for hope?

Well, lately indeed!  This is a conversion process, and I got invited to go deeper, and accepted the invitation – and it has really rocked me. So many of us think that someone, somewhere, smart scientists and powerful people will figure this out and outsmart the forces of climate destruction. But, I fear it is not true!

My hope is in a movement – where diverse groups come together and this issue moves quickly to the top of our agenda, not as issue #7 or 9 that we care most about.  This is going to take a political and spiritual movement, incredible will. People are making a lot of money off of fossil fuels, and we are addicted, and the resistance to radical change is enormous.  I have hope that that will change.

In the eradicating human traffic movement, we say that trafficking is a high profit, low risk business, and we have to reverse that. The same is true of fossil fuel production. A carbon tax, and the kind of campaign that targeted smoking, times 10, is needed. At present, climate change is the most divisive issue in the US, politically, more than guns – why? Because fossil fuels are making some people huge amounts of money. Period.  This must change.


Thank you, Nancy, for taking the time to visit with us. I am growing more and more excited about working together with you on Climate Change, well, shoot, really anything. We can just gather around the piano and belt out our favorite hymns. Your magnetic personality and your depth are not only attractive, they are needed in the world today.

 (photo credit “Towards a free and equal world” Bill Owen)

Peterson’s Quickie Interview–Marlo Bernier 3/3

This week I have had the joy of connecting with Marlo Bernier and hearing her answers to my questions about her career in film and tv and learning about her latest project, Myrna. Marlo is raising  funds to create a television pilot for a comedy/drama about Myrna, an actress who later in life and after a full career in the entertainment business, transitioned from male to female. While this storyline has some similarities with Marlo’s own life experiences, it is not pure autobiography.


Yesterday Marlo talked about the differences between her and and her character, Myrna. Today Marlo gets more personal as she answers the final question in my Quickie Interview series.

Question: Marlo, thank you for sharing so much of yourself with us. Here’s my final question for you, well it’s actually two in one. What part of this project feels vulnerable and risky for you? In light of the risks, why do you still pursue it?

Answer: The part of this project, Myrna that makes me feel excruciatingly vulnerable is the simple fact that I had moved on from referring to myself as a “transgender woman”, or a “trans-woman” – and that “moving-on” for me had less to do with that I had (at least for me) completed my voyage from male-to-female, than it had to do with the fact that for more than a few years now, let’s say approximately two-thirds way through my transition I no longer felt “gender dysphoric”, I was (now & at that point) feeling and owning myself in the gender I had always been, since birth. And let me clarify by stating that gender and (anatomical) sex are two completely different parts of the human equation. By that I mean, that when someone were to pose the question to me thusly; Are you the same gender you were born? I would answer, yes. If, on the other hand, they were to ask; Are you the same sex you were born? I would answer, no.

So at this point in my life and for some time now I have (gratefully) been received as a woman, no matter the circumstance. And when I contemplated bringing Myrna (the tv series) back into production, I knew that I would (again) be “leading with that foot”, and it shook me a bit, because the press, the media will be referring to me as “Marlo Bernier – Transgender Actress”, and I’m not saying that I am ashamed of this title, or label in any way. But, I’m putting myself publicly back out there for the sake of the show. Because Myrna (the character) is still in the throes of her transition and so there will be those situations within the show, within the various episodes where that issue (of being tagged and labeled) will be exposed. Shown and told with all the pathos and humor we can muster. And I’m not trying to say that I’m being all altruistic in my endeavor, either. But I do want people, our audience, to see, to listen, to comprehend this version of a person’s coming to terms with who they really are.

And at the end of the day, I will still gently, but firmly proclaim; “Though it is impossible for me to escape my past, this does not mean however, that I must continue to reside in it.”

And remember, please remember this, if nothing else, “One’s Gender Identity is invisible to everyone,…except you.”

Thank you, Peterson for talking with me about our show, about our shared respect for the craft and art of acting and for asking me some really unique and insightful questions.



Very special thanks to Marlo for submitting herself to my questions and for answering with so much heart and depth. Now I want to take the train to LA and hang out with her for the rest of the day.

Marlo’s fan-based fund raising campaign is doing very well and getting close to its target. Join in and take part in this historic endeavor. Also you can follow Marlo on Twitter: @Marlob59 and follow the Myrna TV Show on Twitter as well: @MyrnaTvShow

Do you have a suggestion about who to interview next? Let me know in the comments or find me on the many social media platforms that I haunt. 😛


Peterson’s Quickie Interview: Marlo Bernier 2/3

Actress, producer, and writer Marlo Bernier has embarked on a new project, a television Dramedy in which she plays Myrna. Here is a synopsis from the project’s fundraising page: (Donations keep growing–how about you add to the pile to make this project happen?)

After a successful career in front of the camera and on the stage, an actor is willing to sacrifice everything when she finally confronts her true gender identity and transitions from male-to-female. We follow Myrna as she struggles to find work as an actress, wrestles with a manager who still wants to send her out as her former-famous self, Michael and deals with the drama of her friends’ reactions as they make an effort to come to terms with Myrna and her life-altering transition.

Yesterday I asked Marlo about her craft as an actor and why she keeps at it. Check out Peterson’s Quickie Interview w/ Marlo Bernier 1/3. Today I focus on her new project.

Question: In your latest project, you will play Myrna, a woman who like you was assigned male at birth and raised as male and then transitioned to female later in life. How is Myrna unlike you, and what might you express or explore through her as a character that you have not experienced in your own life?

Answer: This is an amazingly difficult question to answer, at least the first part because I’m not sure yet in-part due to the way I came up in the theatre as an actor. I studied for a few years with mentors who had themselves studied under Hagen and under Adler. So I (hope I) was getting an 2nd generation education. Looking back, I’m certain I did. And in a kind of “The Method” sort of approach; score the role, employ “substitution” (when necessary), etc.

And I loved that. I mean I really loved that approach and they’re all so intertwined and connected anyway and I’m certain they all stole from one another.

But somewhere during my career, I’m pretty sure that it was during Love! Valour! Compassion! And there was this scene in Act III, where I had to be on stage as both John & James (the Jekyl twins 🙂 god, McNally, I mean, really?) and though I had always committed to being in “the moment”, there were some nights when I just couldn’t “bring it”, that huge emotional scene, full-on breakdown by them both, you know? I mean, I would feel compelled to employ all the “tricks” I had learned years prior, but the stage is a harsh mistress and if I didn’t (feel) that I had delivered an amazingly perfect performance, I would oft times find myself backstage, beating myself up. I won’t repeat the names I’d call myself when I was unable to “get there”. (I’d invent new swear words and euphemisms – a mixture of Greek and German)

Then something magical happened. I fell onto a book by Mamet called; True and False – Hearsay and Common Sense for the Actor. (and p.s. Mamet stole most of the stuff in this book from Chekov and Meisner (and I’m certain Anton and Sandy stole some of their stuff from someone else as well) – thieves, all of them! And that’s their best character trait.

I won’t belabor it, but this book saved my life as an actor and it was from this book that I learned what works for me best, which is first and foremost to; Deny Nothing. Invent Nothing. Tell the Truth.

And also something that I now live by, regardless, be it on the stage, or on set and it’s this; We (actors) do not go to the theatre to exercise our emotions, rather it is the audience who attend and pay good money to exercise theirs.

And lastly, stay in the moment and bring it from the text – that text, that dialogue, monologue, what have you, was written by someone with a different “job title” than you – and my job as an actor is to “act as if…” period. End of story. At least for me.

And once that cooked in my brain for a bit, I relaxed and I became liberated to a degree I hadn’t yet experienced and one of the best plays ever written (for my money) is Kushner’s, Angels in America, in which I was cast to play Roy Marcus Cohn – Parts I & II. And because I had fully digested the Mamet book, I was able to simply let go and “act as if I were Roy” – I no longer had to become him. I just acted as if I were him and listen, when the writing is that slick, that sharp, etc, one’s job as an actor is “cake”.

So in a way, I will play Myrna, as if…her life is an embellishment of and on my own, of my own making. Did most of these things happen to me? Yes. But we’ve taken theatrical license in order to deliver the point. And also this, and this is the toughest bit for me, I can’t tell you how incredibly hard it is for me to first, write for myself and second to then play that role, that character that I’ve written. I am for the first time in my career on both hallowed and shaky ground and I am truly cognizant of that and I will be leaning on my director, colleague and good friend, Ted Campbell to guide me in a way I’ve never been directed before.

Peterson’s Quickie Interview: Marlo Bernier (1/3)

Welcome to the newest feature on my blog, Peterson’s Quickie, in which I interview someone who interests me and is engaged in the world. I’ll feature folks involved with any number of pursuits that hold my attention: queer stuff, gender issues, faith, climate change, (and likely gardening since I am so obsessed these days.) I’m thrilled that the very first person I have interviewed is Marlo Bernier.

Likely you have seen her before on Television or in the movies. (She was in the Cecil B DeMented film! I love how in that movie Patricia Hearst plays the mother of one of the “cinema terrorists.”) Even though you watched Marlo on the screen that doesn’t mean you would recognize her if she passed you on the street. For most of her screen and stage work as an actor, writer, and producer, Marlo Bernier is credited as Mark Bernier and has appeared in male roles. About seven years ago Marlo began a transition process and today lives openly as the woman she knows she has always been.

Now Marlo has embarked on a new project, a television Dramedy in which she plays Myrna. Here is a synopsis from the project’s popular on-line crowd source fundraising page: (It’s not too late to donate!)

After a successful career in front of the camera and on the stage, an actor is willing to sacrifice everything when she finally confronts her true gender identity and transitions from male-to-female. We follow Myrna as she struggles to find work as an actress, wrestles with a manager who still wants to send her out as her former-famous self, Michael and deals with the drama of her friends’ reactions as they make an effort to come to terms with Myrna and her life-altering transition.

While this plot line may sound purely autobiographical, Marlo is quick to point out differences between her and her creation. We sat down for a fun and moving interview. Here is the first of three questions and Marlo’s answers.

Question: Marlo, you have been in theater, TV, and film for some time now (yet still look young and fresh) what initially drew you to acting, and given the nature of how challenging a profession it is, why do you keep at it?

Answer: I’ll be brief (but I’m a broad who loves to talk – HA!) but you knew that already 🙂

Why, thank you, Peterson – you’re the first person to ever refer to me as (still) “young”, but I’ve been called more than “fresh” forever.

Yes, I have been acting since I was in Junior High School where I had my first exposure through what was called; Prize Speaking. In 7th Grade, I delivered an “I Speak for Democracy” speech and in the 8th Grade, I delivered Poe’s “The Raven” and it’s been all uphill from there – HA!

I think for me, having started in the theatre, it was the place that was safest, the place where I was allowed to grow and a place that was less judgmental as to how particular roles in which I was fortunate to have been cast were open to me, as in when I did Roy Cohn in Kushner’s Angels in America, the twins John/James in L!V!C! and Alan Berg in Steven Dietz’ God’s Country. Those roles are a few of my best memories and ones in which I most likely wouldn’t have been cast, had they been film roles.

But I love film and television work too and I’ve been also fortunate to have been on both sides of the lens. And as an actor, I love to work with other actors from a director’s perspective, because (and I can only hope the feeling is mutual) I have a kind of “short-hand” when talking with actors on set. And nothing excites me more, than watching actors from behind the monitor, delivering killer work. There’s just nothing like it, for me.

I hope I continue to do this for the reason I began doing it (decades ago) and that would be because the theatre, film and television are places where we “tell the truth” within the parameters we’ve (or the play, script etc) created. We suspend (our) “disbelief”, so that the/our “Audience” is allowed to suspend theirs.

Simply, I remember as a kid that when I played “Make Believe”, I truly believed I was “that person”, going thru “those events”.

And I hope and pray that I never stop believing.


That’s my first question with Marlo Bernier. I’ll post question two tomorrow. Check out the Myrna project page that has a funny video with Marlo chatting about it.
And if you know someone who would be a good candidate for a quickie with me (a quickie interview that is) let me know.