Category: performances

The Peterson Apocalypse Fall Tour Schedule

While my amazing tour manager duo, Jane and Karina, still have some final bookings to confirm, I have most of my fall 2014 schedule posted. In addition to performing Transfigurations–Transgressing Gender in the Bible, a performance lecture that explores the stories and lives of gender outlaws in the Bible, I have four new presentations I now have ready for public enjoyment and edification.

These include

The tour begins this weekend with a performance of Transfigurations in State College, PA on Saturday followed by a special presentation about my own funky, off-beat look at global warming on Sunday at the Friends Meeting. Later in the month I will hop on an Amtrak train and cross the country heading up into Vancouver, BC. The train is like a rolling reading retreat for me as I nestle in my sleeper car.

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The Peterson Apocalypse Tour includes:

  • Oct 7 & Oct 15 Susquehanna University
  • Oct 18 & 19 Lancaster, PA
  • Oct 29-Nov 2 Minneapolis, MN
  • Nov 5-10 British Columbia
  • Nov 11-15 Washington and Oregon
  • Nov 19 & 20 Simpson College, Indianola, IA
  • Nov 22 & 23 Pittsburgh

Homo No Mo available now for digital download!

What do you do when you finally come to your senses after 17 years, over $30,000, on three continents trying to de-gay yourself? How do you process two years enduring a wicked and absurd Christian gay rehab bootcamp? Well you condense that madness and pain into a 90 minute one-person comedy.

That’s what I did over 10 years ago when I created Doin’ Time in the Homo No Mo Halfway House–How I Survived the Ex-Gay Movement. Through a bunch of characters I give a comic tour of the Homo No Mo Mo Halfway House. Based on the true story of my time at the Love in Action program in Memphis, TN, the play provides a mix of outrageous satire and an eye-witness account of what it takes to survive psychological torture and gender role reinforcing activities administered in Jesus’ Name.

Seriously it is my funniest play and now for the first time it is available for download. Meet for the first or hang out again with Chad, Vlad, Tex, Marvin, and the Reverend Meadows. I even make a cameo in my own play! Edited by Morgan Jon Fox this was the final performance of the play before I retired it in 2008. I’m thrilled I can make it available for download at last.

If you want a DVD of the play, order from Quaker Books.
Happy Viewing!

 

Toscano's excellent theater chops morph characters and identities in that world-changing way only performance allows. His writing and philosophy educate and loosen the tightest knots of queer and religious entanglements. But it's his heart, which his engaging presence radiates, that will pull you in, warm you up, and leave you pleading for an encore.

Scott Turner Scofield
, Transgender actor, artist, solo performer & diversity speaker.

 

Download!

From Homo No Mo and Beyond–Web Launch!

Back in October 2002 I sat in my tiny apartment in Hartford, CT considering a play I had in mind which would reveal to the world the 17 years I spent receiving gay conversion therapy and especially the two horrible years I endured the notorious Love in Action ex-gay residential program in Memphis, TN.

I did not feel I had to speak out, but that it was an option if I wanted. I also sensed that I was looking at a five year commitment. As I sat in my room, I said yes, I would produce the play and walk down that path. Almost immediately and over the next six months, ideas came to me about how to create the work, how to present it, how to pitch it, how to promote it. It was like a vast file was downloaded into my mental hard drive.

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Peterson officially comes out of the closet in January 1999

In February 2003 in Memphis, TN I premiered, Doin’ Time in the Homo No Mo Halfway House, then spent the next five years traveling through North America, Europe, and Africa telling my story and connecting with others to learn about their experiences. With the help of my friend, Christine Bakke, a fellow ex-gay survivor, we launched the Ex-Gay Survivor Movement

Then in 2008 five years was up. We had accomplished so much in that time, and I felt released from the work while also sensing a leading to new work, particularly a need to address the oppression against trans* people at the hands of gays and lesbians and by churches. This led to the creation of Transfigurations–Transgressing Gender in the Bible, a blend of performance and scholarship that looks at non-conforming gender outlaws in the Bible.

Art by Mila and Jayna Ponder

Again I felt like I knew what steps to take to let the public know about the work. I understood I needed to get to seminaries and places of worship–Christian, Jewish, and Muslim–to share some good news about gender non-conformists in the Bible who stand as the most important characters in some of the Bible’s most important stories. For the past six years I have been doing this work, and I expect I will carry on doing it. This summer I will finally film the play and then have it available for distribution.

But something new started up for me a little over a year ago. After reading, listening, and having some long teary conversations with my husband, Glen Retief, I became alarmed about the reality of Climate Change and what it means for us as a civilization. I understood that I wanted and needed to respond to the growing crisis in the only way I knew how–with art.

I have spent the last year researching climate change and how to communicate effectively about it. I am creating a new play, Does This Apocalypse Make Me Look Fat? A Comedy about Broken Bodies–Large and Small, which will premiere in the early fall (Details TBA).

Decked out in Eco-Drag, wonders, "What Would Walt Whitman Do?"

Decked out in Eco-Drag, wonders, “What Would Walt Whitman Do?”

As I ask questions like, What is a Queer Response to Climate Change? What role will you take on a new planet? How will churches and other places of worship refashion themselves to be relevant in a new climate? I also have gained insights into how to get this work out to the wider world.

So I have pulled together a dream team who have partnered with me to advise, contribute, reach out, and create with me. Over the next few weeks I’ll introduce you to the various team members. And today I launch my new and improve website replete with new presentations as well as tried and true performances. A podcast is in the work and lots of social media. My hope is to create a hub where we can talk about climate change as a queer issues, a pastoral care issue, a human rights issue, and as a community issue. There is so much we can do and so much we will do to face this crisis with creativity, wisdom, and love.

Welcome to the new site. It’s good to be back!

(Original art by Kevin Miller)

The Voracious Hunger for Life

That winter death looked straight into our eyes and stared long, without faltering. It wanted to hypnotise us, like a boa constrictor hypnotises its intended victim, stripping him of his will and subjugating him. But those who sent us so much death miscalculated. They underestimated our voracious hunger for life.

-Poet Olga Berggolts reflecting on winter of 1942 during the Siege of Leningrad.

In my newest play, Does This Apocalypse Make Me Look Fat? A Comedy about Broken Bodies, Large and Small, I look at all kinds of survivors as I consider what it takes to remain human in the midst of suffering and fear.

Doin’ time in Northern Sweden

In a few hours I will perform once again in Umeå, Sweden, a progressive city in the North of Sweden. I believe it is the fifth time I have been here, and arriving at the home of Alex & Noa Resare, I feel like I have come home. In fact, the past two days I have slept about 13 hours each night. Their home with their three children is a place where I can relax, recuperate, and just be myself (a person who likes to sleep 13 hours a night and then sit in bed and do my work.)

Tonight I will perform a variety show of sorts, “Doin’ Time with Peterson Toscano–Just when you thought it was safe to laugh.” I have done this show more and more the past two years, and have enjoyed being able to pick and choose from nearly a hundred different options of what I can present. Even though it is guaranteed that I will do some bits (Chad & Lorca from Queer 101 & The Identity Monologue) each show turns out different from the last with a clear theme emerging. Tonight’s show I will focus on sexism, misogyny, bodies, and strong women. Here is an outline of possible bits I will perform.

Doin’ Time in Umeå

Intro: Sweden is TOO progressive for my comedy. You all need to elect a racist, homophobic government so that my jokes will mean something (said sarcastically.) I also notice that the flight over alters my body. Once I get off the plane and walk among the Swedes, I am twice as fat as I was in the States. You are all so beautiful, naturally beautiful. Even your fat people here are fit. We could learn from your natural living to just learn to embrace ourselves for who we are.

1. Henry Kissinger had a boob job
2. scene from Doin’ Time in the Homo No Mo Halfway House (Chad & Vlad intro)
3. scenes from “Queer 101–Now I Know My gAy,B,Cs” Chad &Lorca, Earthel
4. scene fromRe-Education of George W Bush–Dr. Meadows does Sodomy
5. scene from I Can See Sarah Palin from my Window–NEW monologue about woman with “issue of blood”
6. scene(s) from Transfigurations–Deborah and possibly man with pitcher of water (I will do all of Transfigurations on Sunday, so I don’t need to do it all tonight)
7. Stand up: some cancer comedy. Don’t you hate it when your mom gets lung cancer? People ask such stupid questions. “Did she smoke?” WTF etc
8. Comedy sketch: Marvin & Samson or How Marvin “did it” kinda
9. Vlad and his superpower. Invisibility can be complicated
10. Identity Monologue

Chances are I will not get to all of this and in fact may end up doing some very different bits. A lot of it depends on the audience. Part of doing solo performance work requires building a dynamic relationship with one’s audience. They give me energy and direction as I share my mind and heart. A bond occurs, often unique from audience to audience, and the show and my performance gets influenced by that bond and our shared needs, interests, and personalities. What I love about LIVE solo performances is that truly anything can happen. And often I discover new material, new jokes, new insights that I incorporate into the act during a future performance, an imprint of that one audience on the enduring work.

I imagine this happens a lot with teachers in the classroom who present some of the same lessons year after year or pastors who repeat sermons (come on, you can confess that you recycle ministerial material.) Jazz musicians have a long history of improv and immediate creation in front of a live audience. There is something magical about the whole thing. If I think about it, I see it is also scary, so I won’t think too much about it. Instead I will rehearse rehearse rehearse and have the words roll around my mouth and tongue and let my body shape shift into characters very different (and some not so different) from me.

I’ll let you know how it goes…

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Doin’ Time in Oslo

Via Detroit and Amsterdam I arrived in Oslo yesterday morning strangely rested in spite of over an hour or two of sleep on the flights. I catch up on all those movies I want to see but don’t want to pay to see. I dozed in and out so they all sort of merged at one point. There was the spy thriller with Angelina and Johnny Depp (The Tourist) and then the country singer movie (Country Strong) and something silly but now I can’t remember what. Actually a pretty poor selection except for a French film which made no sense even with subtitles, but the people were all so pretty and the mood was so dreamy I thoroughly enjoyed it. Sadly I cannot remember the name.

What really kept me up was Lush Life, the Billy Strayhorn biography. Strayhorn collaborated with Duke Ellington for years. Openly gay even in the 1940s when virtually no one was out, he wrote and co-wrote some of the best American music to come out of the 20th Century. But like Bayard Rustin, who was so long overlooked and hidden away, historians are only beginning to give Strayhorn much needed attention. Although the writing is so so, the content was enough to keep me awake much of the flight while I waited in vain for the sleeping drugs to kick in.

Tonight I will have my European debut of “I Can See Sarah Palin from my Window! Lessons Before the Second Coming.” In March of 2010 I travelled to Oslo with Glen, my partner (the memoirist and dishy South African writing professor at Susquehanna University) where I performed excerpts from the play. It finally premiered in Allentown, PA in September, and I have not performed it since. Although Glen thinks it is probably my best structured and most artistic play, I did not feel it was yet ready to tour. I needed to cut cut cut much from it. Not only was it too long, but there were parts I loved to perform that took away more than they added.

In writing plays, like most writing, editing down can be the hardest and most essential part of the work. How does one clip all those buds? It’s like when I am working in my garden and I have too much growth happening on a plant. Clear out the extra and the yield may be smaller but a better quality in the end. It took me the months between the premiere and tonight’s performance to mull over the play and what I want to say and do in it. Fortunately I know how to recycle material, so no doubt some of the better cut bits will resurface at some point.

While the title may suggest that the play is all about Sarah Palin with snide comments and all sorts of Palin jokes, I don’t go there. For one it is too easy. There is a whole market right now with people who live off of poking fun at Sarah Palin. It is being done all the time. I wanted to do something different. So my play becomes more personal while remaining comic. It is a comedy about cancer, misogyny, and hospitality. It is also a play about women. I think of the Spanish filmmaker, Almodovar (particularly his early work) who served up comic meditations and homages to women.

My mother, Anita Toscano, plays a central role in the play (much like she did in my earlier work, “The Re-Education of George W. Bush–No President Left Behind!”) And with it being Mother’s Day on Sunday in the USA, it seems especially fitting that I perform this memorial about my own mom.

In rehearsal I totally broke down crying. It was at the point in the play when I talk about my mom and her fight against cancer. Perhaps it wasn’t a fight, more of an endurance test. She passed the test, but she still died. In the play I talk about the role reversal that happened. As she grew more and more ill, her children and our dad began to take more and more care of her. Dad learned how to clean house and wash clothes. My sisters and I cooked for my mom after decades of mom cooking for us. And she was an amazing cook, not only because she is my mom, but people paid to eat her cooking at Pete’s Pub for over 30 years. In the play I share a poem I wrote after I served my mom the last meal I would prepare for her before she died. She couldn’t eat it because of the advance stage of cancer, but she took a bite, and we pretended she would finish it later.

Today at the Nasjonalgalleriet (the Norwegian National Gallery of Art) in addition to seeing famous works by artists like Edvard Munch (yes, I saw Scream, the painting, but preferred Mannen i kålåkeren–Man in the Cabbage Field) I viewed two artist I do not remember seeing before–Halfdan Egedius and Harriet Backer. Egedius presents his figures in dark backgrounds, and in the pieces and often features women. One piece reminded me of my mother–a solid rock of a woman. Egedius placed the figure in the center of the painting, body in profile with the woman’s head turned facing out with a steady, firm, yet welcoming gaze. In another he placed two dancers in black skirts swirling amidst a dark backdrop. He captured so much movement amongst the dancers, all in dark dark tones, murky but still vibrant.

Harriet Backer was one of the few female artist represented in the art museum. This is nothing new. Glen knows how happy I get when I finally stumble upon a female artist’s work on display in the art museums we visit. In Blått interiør (Blue Interior) a woman dressed in dark blue sitting in a middle class parlor works on some sewing. The only light comes from the window she is facing. She looks defeated to me, trapped, like Nora in Ibsen’s Doll House. But by the window is a plant, tall with shiny leaves, and although we cannot see out the window, we see the light, and the world beyond that parlor.

With my soul fed with good art, I am nearly ready to perform my play. First a tech rehearsal (so many sound cues!) a little rest and BAM, I will be on stage. And maybe I can even sell a Homo No Mo DVD so I can afford one of these insanely expensive excellent coffees they sell around here.

Current mood–content, slightly anxious, mostly feeling anticipation for tonight. So many sounds cues!

Doin’ It at Home

“It” meaning my perforamnce work. I live in Hartford, CT, but I rarely perform there these days. That will change this week.

After a whirlwind surge through the US (Tue in Seattle, Wed in Miami, Thur in Hartford) I return home. Tomorrow morning at 9:00 am I will be on our local public radio station WNPR for the ‘Where We Live’ program to talk about my Transfigurations play. Scott Turner Schofield will also be featured to discuss his upcoming performances next week in Hartford. The Hartford Advocate did a piece on the two of us–queer performance artists doing transgender related theater (see http://www.hartfordadvocate.com/article.cfm?aid=14514 )

Tomorrow evening I will perform Transfigurations in Hartford, technically a CT premiere after nearly two years of presenting it throughout the US, and in Canada, England, Wales, Northern Ireland, Sweden, Malta and South Africa.

I feel excited about presenting it to folks in the city where I live.

Puzzled

Last night I performed Transfigurations-Transgressing Gender in the Bible at Imago Dei Metropolitan Community Church in Glen Mills, PA (about 15 miles outside of Philly).

I had a diverse audience of about 45 people — college students, Quakers, straight, bi, trans and lesbian, young and old. I took my time with the piece maintaining a gentle meditative pace.

For the ending when I reveal the identity of the narrator, I had instructed the light tech to dim the lights. Then as the closing music swelled, I asked her to raise the lights to their brigthest intensity. With the music playing, I exited.

Always (up until last night) at this point the audience applauds, I wait 5 seconds then come out to take a bow. Last night I exited and then nothing. No one clapped. They sat quietly as the music played.

I stood back stage puzzled, baffled. Now what do I do? Wait? Go out anyway? And I wondered for a moment, Did they hate it? Did I confuse them? Offend them? Bore them into a coma?

After what felt like 5 minutes, I walked out onto the stage, and the audience erupted into enthusiastic applause, so much so that I had three curtain calls (I normally do two or ony one.)

So what happened? In talking to Kody and others in attendance they said they knew the play ended when I excited.

I felt the silence helped to settle the messages and images–many new and even startling for some. In many ways I felt pleased with the audience sitting in the stillness of that moment. As a performer I wonder if I did something differently this time. If so, what, and can I do it again? The whole thing puzzles and intrigues me.

Any thoughts?

On the Road Once again

After a few weeks of barely leaving the house except for social reasons, I head out today by train to Philadelphia for the beginning of travel that will bring me to Washington, DC, Baltimore, MD and Vancouver, BC (that’s in Canada). After that I am off to Nashville, TN, Denver, CO, Boulder, CO, Colorado Springs, CO and Seattle, WA. You can see my full schedule here.

This weekend I will be in Glen Mills, PA at Imago Dei Metropolitan Community Church about 15 miles out of Philadelphia. Tonight (Fri) I will perform Queer 101—Now I Know My gAy,B,Cs, a play that looks at homophobia, identity and activism through the words and lives of lesbian and gay poets. I last performed this piece in April at Manchester Community College. In it I get to perform my FAVORITE scene of any of have written, the fantasy date between Chad and Federico Garcia Lorca. (Which you can see here.)

Tomorrow (Sat) I will present Transfigurations—Transgressing Gender in the Bible. This play is probably the hardest one I do requiring the most concentration and work as an actor. It also feels like the most spiritual for me. There is one moment of intimacy and vulnerability that that has taken me years to get to. Alex once asked me how writing and performing this play has changed me. It’s a profound question, and I have yet to fully grasp the impact of this piece on my own life. I guess that is what I like about art. As Kurt Vonnegut repeated often towards the end of his life, “Everyone needs to practice art because art enlarges the soul.”

On Tuesday I head to Washington, DC to perform The Re-Education of George W. Bush—No President Left Behind! How exciting to present this piece at the nation’s capital. There is a whole section about Russia with Vlad using an Russian folk pop interpretive dance to seduce Condoleezza Rice to see Russia as foreign enemy number 1. Of course when I premiered the play back in January 2007, Russia seemed much more of an ally than it is today. Vlad’s moves are working! (That and Russian aggression and a return to Cold War politics)

From what I have scheduled thus far this presentation of the Bush play will be my penultimate performance before I retire it. 🙁 I am happy that I won’t have to perform it anymore after the November election, but PLEASE don’t make me have to write a play about McCain/Palin–Bridge to No Where and Beyond! (Goodness! I already have a title) If you live in the US, register to vote.

Have a great weekend! And if you live far from all those places where I will be the next few weeks, check out Doin’ Time in the Homo No Mo Halfway House–the DVD!

Homophobia—It’s Not Only About the Queers

I have the privilege of speaking in middle schools and high schools in various places in the US, the UK and Europe. When I meet with a group of high school students (ages 14+), I typically perform my play Queer 101—Now I Know My gAy,B,Cs. This one-person, multi-character comedy explores homophobia, identity and activism through the words and lives of lesbian and gay poets. In it I do the scene between my character Chad and the Spanish poet Federico Garcia Lorca. (See video here.) We also explore tems like gay, fag, queer, sissy, dyke, etc.

With younger students I do not present the whole play as some of it may be over their heads (more so because the complex historical background to some of the poems and less so about the sexual content). With middle school students (under age 14) we look at identity starting out with considering things about ourselves that we don’t like that we might like to change (hair color, height, abilities, etc). Next I do my Identity Monologue with the students snapping along as I change from character to character.

Regardless of the age the topic of bullying comes up including the use of the word “gay” as an insult.

Your shoes are so gay. This homework assignment is gay. Dr. Who is gay. (not the character but the show)

In nearly every instance the students do not mean that the thing they are bashing has a gay orientation. Rather “gay” is a way of saying stupid, bad, lame or uncool. (Interestingly enough I have never experienced the term “queer” as an insult. I know that for some the word has been used to bash them, but in my community growing up it was never used. For me the word “gay” brings up negative feelings in a way that queer never has).

I usually share a little of my story with these students about how unhappy I felt when I discovered that I was gay. I didn’t want to be perceived as stupid, bad, lame or uncool. The messages I received on the playground, from political leaders in the media, and from ministers and priest in the pulpit reinforced the shared misconception that anything or anyone “gay” had to be flawed, less-than, and even dangerous. I talk about how I tried desperately to change and the unexpected ways I did change—how I became depressed, discouraged and suicidal. (not at all an uncommon experience for queer and questioning teens).

We then go on to discuss how to make the school a safe place for people who may seem different from the mainstream, not just the gay, lesbian and bisexual or questioning students, but also anyone who falls outside of firmly policed gender roles and presentations.

Many straight people experience restrictions because of all this “that’s so gay” talk. The straight male footballer who wants to be in the school musical needs to fight through a lot of homophobia and gender-norm bullying in order to get on the stage. The cheerleader who wants to try her hand at rugby, has to fend off charges that she must be lesbian. Straight boys and girls need to carefully hold gay, lesbian and bisexual friends out at a distance lest they be assumed gay or lesbian (often in the form of a sharp accusation). The two straight girls who maintain a close friendship, who pal around a lot, have sleepovers and share non-erotic physical intimacy, may feel the need to pull away from each other to lessen the gossip about them being lesbian lovers.

Recently at a presentation to middle school age students (11-13) I shared about my own experience of nearly doing harm to myself because of the conflict I felt after years of bullying. One young boy began to cry. One of his friends alerted a teacher who took the boy out of the room for a chat. Turns out that two years previously the boy had a friend, who after much bullying about being gay, ended his life. As the boy told this story to his teacher, he admitted that he had never talked to anyone about this before and just kept it all inside. What a burden for a pre-teen to bear.

In so many places where bullying of lesbians, gays, bisexuals and people who do not adhere to gender norms occur, non-queer folks also suffer from of all these negative attitudes. Many straight teens have loved-ones who are gay or lesbian, bisexual, transgender or intersex–sometimes even a parent or grandparent. Thoughtful discussion about orientation and gender can benefit all students. Getting beyond mere labels to the humans behind the labels and the slurs ultimately does a great service in helping students and school staff to create and maintain a safe and affirming world.