The other day I updated the performance schedule to include shows in Rochester, NY, Johnstown, PA, the Twin Cities, MN, and Canterbury, England. Currently I perform four different productions and do talks (and somehow I don’t mix them up).
I’m especially pleased they I was invited to give a plenary address at the Friends General Conference (Quaker). As a Quaker, I have presented more and more at Quaker venues the past two years although I mostly do non-Quaker gigs. I actually find some Quaker venues to be the most challenging for me. Most Quakers who have seen my work seem to get what I do and enjoy it, but I have had more offense from Quakers than from any other type of audience member. Some Quakers find comedy to be violent or get so caught up in words that they can miss the point.
Also, when I talk about LGBT issues, I have gotten a strange resistance among some liberal Quakers. They express sentiments like, “Oh, we don’t need that message. We have done a lot of work around this issue in our meeting. We passed a minute on same-sex partnerships back in 1984.”
The majority of these liberal Quaker meetings remain racially homogeneous (white), so issues of diversity come up around race a lot which is great and essential. I have learned much about skin privilege and racism through the working groups on these issues in our meetings.
But the largest minority population within our meetings are most likely the LGBT folks (or maybe those people with scent allergies :-). From talking with several of them, I know we have work to do in our meetings around heterosexism and even homophobia. But when the shields go up–We have already dealt with that stuff–then the meetings can grow stagnant with some people feeling silenced or marginalized.
All of this leaves me with questions about what I will present at FGC. Do I do a play? A talk? Let the silence speak for me? (The perfect Quaker cop out when all else fails). Talk about queer issues? Faith issues? Art? I know I will spend more time praying and prepping for this one talk than any other I will do this year.
While at FGC I will also co-facilitate a workshop for high schoolers,
Xtreme Quakerism – Radical Faith for Mind, Body and Spirit
Peterson Toscano & Kri Burkander
This dynamic, interactive workshop will be an opportunity to deepen your faith, nurture your Spirit, share your heart, and get (re)energized to be a radical Quaker in the world. Through games, movement, worship, meditation, art, writing, drama, and much more, we’ll build a loving community and support each other in listening to the leadings in our lives that are calling our faith into action.
Although the workshop lasts for six days, I have a feeling it will be invigorating and centering for me (and hopefully for the other participants).
Other presentations in the works will be in other parts of England, Northern Ireland, Barcelona, Stockholm, and in the States in Illinois, Connecticut, Maryland and Arizona.