Category: performances

“Homo No Mo'” No Mo’!

Today I did something I’ve never done before. I watched my play Doin’ Time in the Homo No Mo Halfway House—How I Survived the Ex-Gay Movement! I have had video, DVD and audio versions of the play since as early as 2003, but the most I ever watched or listened was about 10 minutes. I always had an image in my head of what the play looked like on stage and worried that if I saw what it really looks like than it would mess something up for me in subsequent performances.

Yesterday I arrived in Memphis, TN (one of my favorite places on the planet). Today I met with Morgan Jon Fox, that fine filmmaker, to look at his edits of my Homo No Mo play which he and his crew filmed back in February. I had to watch the entire film version and give Morgan feedback about the edits and the artistic touches he added.

The crew did an amazing job with the taping of the show, and even though I knew every line, I still found myself laughing out loud at least twice. Towards the end, when the character Chad speaks about his brother’s death, I found myself tearing up a bit. (I know, I know, Joe G is going to accuse me of artistic masturbation or something).

I will have DVDs available for me to take to the UK and Europe during my May trip. If you got one of last year’s DVDs (with the really crap sound quality) let me know, and I will give you a replacement.

Friday I will go back to where I grew up and where my dad still lives so that I can perform my final performance of Homo No Mo in Narrowsburg, NY where I went to school. My agent, Sarah B. Miller, asked me some questions then worked on a blrub for the program.

25 years ago Peterson Toscano graduated from Narrowsburg Central School. He then spent nearly two decades struggling with his faith and his gay orientation, but by 1999 he finally came out as gay. In 2003 he premiered his one-person play, Doin’ Time in the Homo No Mo Halfway House—How I Survived the Ex-Gay Movement! a comedy about his experiences in various “change” ministries including two years at the Love in Action ex-gay program where he submitted himself to a de-gayification process.

In the past five years Peterson has become an international sensation performing in over 30 US states, throughout Canada and regularly in Europe and the UK. Praised for both his skills as a playwright and a character actor, he performs at universities, theaters, conferences and progressive faith communities. The two pieces he presents at the Tusten Theatre this weekend are his most personal.

With his comedy Doin’ Time in the Homo No Mo Halfway House—How I Survived the Ex-Gay Movement! in addition to morphing into several zany and endearing characters, he also plays his own father, Pete Toscano. In The Re-Education of George W. Bush—No President Left Behind! Peterson shares the wisdom and wit of his mother, Anita Toscano. The Toscanos owned and ran Pete’s Pub (now Our Place on the Lake) in Lake Huntington for over 30 years.

Peterson recently announced that he will retire his Homo No Mo play. In fact, the performance at the Tusten Theatre this weekend will be his the final presentation of it. He will continue to tour with The Re-Education of George W. Bush—No President Left Behind! along with two of his other original works, Queer 101—Now I Know My gAy,B,Cs and Transfigurations—Transgressing Gender in the Bible, a performance piece about transgender Bible characters. Next week he heads out for a month to offer a series of presentations in England, Northern Ireland and Spain.

Peterson Toscano appeared in the documentary film, Fish Can’t Fly and with his his father, Pete, is featured in the new documentary film Chasing the Devil, Inside the Ex-Gay Movement which recently premiered at the Birmingham Gay and Lesbian film festival. Peterson also appears in the documentary Cure for Love which aired earlier this month on Canadian national TV.

Peterson is an executive producer of a soon to be released feature length documentary film about the ex-gay movement called This is What Love in Action Looks Like. Peterson has appeared on several TV programs including the Tyra Banks Show, Montel Williams and the Morning Show with Mike and Juliet, on the pages of People Magazine, the New York Times and Glamour Magazine, and on national public radio programs in the US, Sweden and Austria. He along with Christine Bakke co-founded the organization Beyond Ex-Gay (www.beyondexgay.com), a support network for people who survived the de-gayification process.

Peterson lives in Hartford, CT and has a little cottage in Lake Huntington, NY. His web site is www.petersontoscano.com

He dedicates this weekend’s performances to his parents, Pete and Anita Toscano and in recognition of Narrowsburg Central School. He also gives a special shout out to his sister, Maria Forlenza, her two sons Gregory and Geoffrey, and Maria’s husband, Pat Forlenza!

Thanks Christine for the crazy photo!

So in celebration of five fun and meaningful years of Homo No Mo, for those of you who have seen the show, I would love for you to write in the comments about your favorite character or moment from the play. For me right now my favorite part to perform is Marvin Bloom’s scene (he’s the newest character and he casts demons out of his computer just like I used to do!)

Phallic Fruit Fetish Anyone?

From Urban Dictionary
Phallic Fruit Fetish

A “disorder” popularized by gay Quaker performing artist Peterson Toscano in his play “Doin’ Time the Homonomo Halfway House” about his time spent as a patient in a Christian residential program to “cure” gay people. Another resident in the program suffered from Phallic Fruit Fetish (or PFF) and had a persistent desire to commit sexual acts with phallically shaped fruits. The problem was alleviated when all phallic shaped fruits were removed from the facility.
Rev. Smid ordered all bananas removed from the house upon learning of a patient’s phallic fruit fetish.

And as I have Chad explain in the play,

He had a PFF, a Phallic Fruit Fetish, but he had a really serious case of it that actually extended into the vegetable word. As a result, no cucumbers, no zucchini, no carrots–oh, except for the little mini carrots; they don’t bother him so much.

Urban Dictionary submission by Daniel Gonzales
Artwork by Christine Bakke
Crazy Character Chad by me.

Multi-Media Roundup

Below are some important videos that address ex-gay stuff AND when you are done, at the very bottom, see Christine Bakke’s handiwork.

Over at YouTube ProfMTH put up a movie review of the anti-gay propaganda movie Sodom and Gomorrah. No it is not one of the Biblical porn films Love in Action forbade us from watching, rather a contemporary story about the lavender menace threatening the world as we know it. I felt especially pleased when I heard the reviewer referenced the apologies of former ex-gay leaders that Beyond Ex-Gay and Soulforce featured at our press conference last June in LA.

Next we have a video brought to us by Daniel Gonzales over at Box Turtle Bulletin. This one features Jeff Williamson. Christine writes an EXCELLENT post inspired by this video. Daniel writes,

When Jeff Williamson of Denver came out to his parents a year ago they sent him to see Christian counselor Bob Hudson whom they had been referred to through Focus On The Family. Jeff, who knew there’s nothing wrong with being gay, researched the ex-gay movement and pro-gay theology before his appointment, during which he ceded no ground to his counselor’s agenda. Jeff’s story is presented as a triumphant model for all too many youth who are sent, by their parents, against their will to ex-gay programs.

Also at Box Turtle Bulletin, Jim Burroway speaks about ex-gay programs and money. Lots of people think there is gold in them thar hills, but Jim breaks it down for us to reveal that money is not such a huge factor in promoting and providing ex-gay ministry (a concept lost on some folks who think it is all about the money and thus overlook what is really going on).

Finally, I just got off the phone with Morgan Jon Fox who is editing my Homo No Mo DVD. Christine graciously agreed to design the DVD cover art, so I sent her some files from the original poster designs. She started playing with my image immediately with some creative outcomes as evidenced by the random image below. When the DVD comes out in May, don’t be surprised if you see my Chad character flailing in a tub of bananas or something.

Burps & Farts

In my play, The Re-Education of George W. Bush—No President Left Behind, my character Chad offers an environmental lesson. His primary point outlines how being a vegan helps the planet. In his deliciously flaming style he states that,

Gas from cars has a significantly less impact on the planet than that emitted from cows in the forms of burps and farts.

And as I say the line, I put my left hand to my mouth ( for burps) and then down by my behind (for farts) and add, “I think that’s the sign language for those.”

After last night’s performance, two women approached me and said that they knew American Sign Language. One asked if I wanted to learn the actual signs for burp and fart. Um, yeah! So next time you see the show, if you don’t know them already, you will also learn these signs. Brilliant.

The Chad environmental lesson serves as a pivotal scene in the performance because it is the first lesson that does not simply target the president. It speaks directly to the audience and their own personal practices. It forces people to look at the global outcomes of one of their daily actions. It opens the door for me to talk about other issues to examine. By the end of the play, I can state that as someone raised in the USA, I have been programmed to be racist, sexist, homophobic, wasteful and violent. I suggest that this may be true for many of us and conclude by affirming that I need to re-educate the little George W. Bush lurking inside of me.

I received an e-mail from an audience member who overheard two women commenting about my show (and the Chad scene in particular) as they exited the hall. One of the women said,

Hitler was a vegetarian so you have to be careful with that moral superiority stuff.

Um, right. He also wore trousers, drove in cars and clipped his fingernails. So should I run around in a skirt sporting Howard Hughes-like curly nails? (Although I like the idea of the skirt)

I feel pleased by the remark. I hope my Bush play provokes people, gets them to look at their lives and practices and ask, “How might I be part of the problem?” Anyone can bash George W. Bush and thus feel a little better about themselves. Looking inward takes more work.

What if we place ourselves on a continuum based on how we live our lives? On one end stood George W. Bush, and the other was say Gandhi or Mother Theresa. Based on our lifestyles and regular practices, where do we fall? To whom are we closest? Although I admire Gandhi and Mother Theresa much more than the current US president, I have to admit that I fall much nearer to Bush. In this exercise George W. Bush stands as a symbol for a particular attitude or excess. Instead we could place other folks there–Paris Hilton for instance or Joe G 🙂

None of us can ever live the perfect life or one where we leave no damage no matter how hard we try. We can greatly lessen the harm we do to the planet and to each other. The complete solution to global warming will not be all of us going vegan, but when we reduce our meat and dairy consumption, (along with an increased commitment to buying local products), we will make a BIG difference. (Besides a vegan diet improves our health and, more importantly, our skin considerably!)

I had a blast last night with the 200 plus people in the audience right here in Hartford where I live. I even got to meet Becca, who visits my blog (you have beautiful eyes!) During the talk-back time afterwards, I spoke directly to the audience, mostly progressive liberals, about the verbal violence we dish out towards other humans because they happen to be Conservatives, Republicans or Christians.

Part of the re-education process requires that I recognize everyone has some good in them even if I’d prefer to write them off as intolerant, hateful, bigots, but doing so serves as easy way out and creates further conflicts while leaving us feeling smug and self-satisfied. As a Quaker, I hear over and over about how “that of God is in everyone.” This optimistic teaching interferes with my desire to assume the worse in people, to discount their needs, and invalidate their values.

In virtually every Hollywood movie I have seen, they drum into me the message that we have only two types of people in the world–good guys and bad guys. That binary exists in fiction. And on this my 1010th blog post (a lovely example of beautiful actual binary), I feel encouraged and challenged once again to view anti-gay conservative leaders, ex-gay ministers, and even George W. Bush (oh and Dick Chaney too) as humans, fellow travelers, offspring of the divine.

That doesn’t mean they are not responsible for any cruel, thoughtless or harmful things they may say or do. It means that I recognize we are made of the same stuff, and, yes, we all burp and fart.

New Performance Video Uploaded

I performed Transfigurations–Transgressing Gender in the Bible at SMYRC, the Sexual Minority Youth Resource Center in Portland, OR. In my opening remarks I also performed my identity monologue, which I already have up on YouTube, but it feels so different in front of a live audience.

After the play, I also did and excerpt from Queer 101–Now I Know My gAy,B,Cs. Yes, it is the scene between Chad and Federico Garcia Lorca. Folks have been clamoring for it for over a year, so for your view and sharing pleasure, below you will see that famous scene.

Much thanks to Mark Middleton for taping and editing and uploading the video and then treating me to Pix Patisserie!!!

Identity Monologue


Excerpt from Queer 101

Transfigurations–On the Eve of a Premiere

Tomorrow I premiere my newest one-person show, Transfigurations–Transgressing Gender in the Bible. I don’t often share about my process as a playwright, mainly because I assume most people find it boring. Lately though people have asked me about how I create and build a new theater piece. If you are interested in process, read away. If not, surf away to your next blog.

I don’t actually write the play, not with pen and paper or through a word processing program. In fact, I never have a script written until after the 12th performance. I find that when I script lines of dialog, they sound bulky, clumsy, wooden. I want an authentic sound. So once I have all my basic ideas in my head, with some written notes, I create my characters, and then I have fun and play. I speak as these characters and let the words form in my mouth.

Sometimes I leave funny messages on friends’ voice mails, or I walk around the house composing lines. This is the power of the oral tradition. For many of our ancestors, most stories were told and heard, not written and read. Just like the ear can distinguish the difference between the cold digital sound of a CD and the more natural sound of a live performance or even an LP, I believe that we hear lines of dialog differently when it is scripted or when it flows out of natural speech. This may not be true for other playwrights, but it works for me.

But I’ve jumped ahead. In writing Transfigurations, I first had to discover my content and my characters. This always proceeds dialog. For the past two years I have soaked in the stories and lives of dozens of amazing trans people. I never intended to write a play at first. Instead I desired to be a better ally to transgender people. I saw how in the LGB part of the community, the T was most often just tagged onto the name of a group, but no real trans presence or deep knowledge of trans issues existed.

I began by reading blogs written by trans men, women and others who defy gender classification (by their own choosing). From there I learned about several important books written by trans people about trans issues. (see below a list of blogs and books). Then I began to meet more and more trans people face to face. Some of these I met through True Colors or the Quaker group Friends for LGBTQ Concerns. I discovered so much diversity among trans folks and began to see how misinformed I had been.

About the time I met Sarah Jones, a transgender priest in the Church of England, I decided I needed to create a play about the trans characters in the Bible. For one I have not yet discovered any book or work of art that identifies many trans Bible characters, specifically the ones that I began to see materialize on the page. Also, I process information through my art, so in order for me to really grasp it, I need to turn to art. (sorta like many teachers learn the most about their subject when they teach it).

I next began interview trans people. Interviews have played and important role in my creative process from the time I was first asked to write a performance poem for Judy Shepard when she spoke in Memphis back in 2000. In order to do that, I interviewed nearly 100 LGBT people and discovered so much about my people, this group that I had finally allowed myself to embrace and let embrace me.

Over the last year I sat with transsexuals, cross-dressers, genderqueer individuals who agreed to meet with me, and I listened to their stories while I took notes. Often I asked a broad, open-ended question. So tell me about your experience as a trans person? They answered how they wanted. I also asked more specific questions about family and romance and career based on what they already shared, but mostly I stuck with the broader type questions.

Apart from the play, and not at all part of any official research into trans issues, I discovered true friends and at least one soul mate. My life became fuller with each trans person I met. I dated a trans man for a time, and my time with him changed me profoundly and opened me up as a gay man and a person.

I took in the stories I read, saw in film and most importantly heard firsthand. At the same time I read over and over again the Bible narratives of the trans characters I identified in the Hebrew and Christian scriptures.

Then I began to speak and write about the play and some of my ideas. People responded with their own thoughts and gave me vital information about the Bible stories and the original language and meanings of words in Hebrew that I would not have known. (I studied Koine Greek in college, but never Hebrew).

In May I began to share the Transgender Bible Stories publicly, first at the Courage UK London meeting then later in the year at the Greenbelt Festival in Cheltenham, England and then most recently at the Colorado Regional Gathering of Friends (Quakers).

The audience reaction surprised me. One person wrote on his blog about how the material gave him the “holy creeps,” and about how blasphemous it all seemed to him. But most audience members responded enthusiastically, at least three telling me that as a result they wanted to dive into the Bible themselves after never having anything to do with it or put it down long ago.

These last two weeks I have spoken with trans friends about the play, my ideas for characters, specific parts of the plot and certain technical aspects. For instance, if I were a female to male trans person not taking testosterone, what might I do differently with my voice so that it would pass more as a male voice. How do males and females speak differently in our cultures? How would a female attack a word compared to a male?

Sometimes seemingly unrelated interests suddenly jumps into one of my plays and affixes itself to the work. I recently re-read Elaine Pagels’ book about the Gospel of Thomas. There I found all sorts of fascinating references to gender. That got me thinking about the Apostle Thomas. I knew he went all the way to India to share the Jesus message and ultimately got killed there by the sword. Thomas in Southern India got me thinking about the hijras, the eunuchs of India also referred to as the third sex. This got me talking to filmmaker and scholar Harjant Gill about hijras, their history and their current roles in Indian life. Suddenly the confluence of information gave new direction and depth to my ideas for the play. I won’t reveal how it all turns out, but I tell you all this to share some of the organic nature of the creative process for me.

The audience plays a major role in the creation of my plays. I’m always thinking about who my audience members might be and consider them in my content, characters and in crafting lines. Before I premiere a piece, I present a preview version to close friends who have seen my other work and usually a few people who have never seen any of my plays.

I come with scrapes of ideas I have, and I literally build the piece right before their eyes. They give me feedback about what worked and what didn’t. I consider their feedback, make changes and then a day or two later do another preview performance with another group of people. Get more feedback and make more changes. Even after I premiere a piece, I take in how my audiences respond and ask individuals for feedback. I continue to tinker and tune the play even years after it premieres. This is one of the reasons why I am loathed to record any of my shows. They seem to me living organisms always growing and changing.

This week I have already done two preview performances and have a third this afternoon. The piece is coming along nicely. Each time I do it, it settles into place more and more. So far the audiences have found it to be funny and moving, and for some, enlightening.

Having considered my trans audience members, I wanted to keep some of the revelations subtle, knowing that they will figure it out right away. Having non-trans folks in the audience this week helped me see that I was too subtle for them and need to spell out some things more clearly.

Tomorrow I premiere the piece at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. I believe a large crowd will gather including some coming from as far as an hour away. Some dear trusted friends will be there. Ultimately I want Transfigurations to transition into a musical. I can write lyrics and have found at least two different people willing to write music.

So cross your fingers, tell me to break a leg, and hold me in the Light or shoot up a prayer if you do that sort of thing because ready or not, I am about to premiere Transfigurations–Transgressing Gender in the Bible.

Here are some resources that have influenced me:

blogs:
Jen Burkes’ Transcending Gender
Elliot’s many blogs including Little Bits and Boi
Alex Resare’s Across and Beyond
Diana’s Little Corner in the Nutmeg State
Jay Sennett’s newly retitled blog On Zen and the Art of Anti Assclownery

books:
Omnigender–A Trans-Religious Approach by Virgina Mollenkott
Queer Theory, Gender Theory by Riki Wilchins
Butch is a Noun by S. Bear Bergman
Orlando by Virginia Wolfe
Beyond Belief–The Secret Gospel of Thomas by Elaine Pagels

Special Thanks
Elliot, Alex, Ally, Diana, and Oliver Danni for your recent help!

Disappearing Actor

You all will not hear too much from me during the month of November. I am in the last stages of creating a theater piece that looks at gender-different people in the Bible, those folks who transgress gender yet remain some of the most important people in the stories in which they appear. (Wanna know who? Wait to see Transfigurations!)

In meeting and speaking with transgender folks this past year, I have grown to understand levels of oppression towards them perpetuated by straight people who represent the gender-normative society as well as by gay and lesbian people who also demand gender-normative presentations. I view the Bible as a mirror to help us see each other and ourselves in a way that can and should transform our thinking.

And for non-trans folk (gay, lesbian, bisexual and straight) in regards to trans folks, I see that the challenge is to no longer conform to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of our minds. This process so often comes through listening. The same challenge exists for many people of faith who support and promote anti-gay worldly values in the name of religion.

“Homo No Mo” No More????

As promised, I have an important announcement to share with you. It’s something that I had determined months ago, but sat with it, talked to my support committee and some of you about and held in the Light since that time.

I feel confident and even excited to announce that in February 2008 I will officially retire my play, Doin’ Time in the Homo No Mo Halfway Houuse–How I Survived the Ex-Gay Movement. I premiered the play in Memphis, TN in February 2003 (on my birthday) and have since taken it far and wide. (A Google Vanity Search yields nearly 12,000 hits for the term “Doin’ Time in the Homo No Mo Halfway House“)

Back in 2003 there was very little out there countering the claims of ex-gay therapies and ministries. Mike Airhart had just started Ex-Gay Watch, and although gay activists, like Wayne Besen, spoke out against the Ex-Gay Movement, there were no ex-gay survivors telling their stories in any public way.

Since that time so much has changed. Folks like Christine Bakke and Darlene Boggle and Shawn O’Donnell and Eric Leocadio and Alex Resare and David Christie and Daniel Gonzales and (I could go on for quite some time) have come forward to share their own stories. Christine Bakke and I (with lots of help from Steve Boese, who reviewed Homo No Mo back in 2003) set up Beyond Ex-Gay (bXg) in April of this year and filled it with lots of powerful stories.

The Ex-Gay Survivor Conference and Soulforce‘s Ex-Gay Survivor Initiative have helped to highlight the concerns of ex-gay survivors and the clear message that many of us experienced more harm than good in our pursuit to suppress and change our sexuality. As a result, several survivors have shared their stories in video and placed them on YouTube. Currently there are at least eight differen documentary films in the works that all deal with the ex-gay issue. There is the autumn release of Save Me, a film about the ex-gay struggle, and new blogs by ex-gay survivors are being created weekly.

My story is out there, in large part because of my play and talks, and has been featured in news stories, documentaries, and TV programs (check out this week’s Edge article). I feel it is time for me to lay down the Homo No Mo play. In part, I want to make room for other people to tell their stories. Also, I know it will not be healthy or even interesting to be stuck in the same role for a long time. I have other plays that I do and still others in the works.

I do intend to produce a high quality DVD version of Doin’ Time in the Homo No Mo Halfway House. We may do some filming in December with hopes of having it out by the spring of 2008. And I will perform the play as often as possible between now and February. My hope is to have my final performance in Memphis. (the fall schedule will be up once I return from England)

If you have been saying for years that you MUST get Homo No Mo to a theater or church or university near you, this your time to act. Feel free to contact Sarah or me.

But more importantly I want to thank you for your support and affirmation as I have been telling my story through the Homo No Mo play. I feel a special fondness for the piece in large part because of the many amazing people I have gotten to know through performing it. Through writing, performing and re-writing the piece, I learned a great deal about myself and my own struggle.

Today I see big shifts happening in the ex-gay world and the church, so I believe my play will very soon lose its relevance and simply become historical. We have lots to celebrate, and I see this final run of Homo No Mo to be part of that celebration.

Returning to the UK this Summer!


For the third time this year I will be in the UK. Turning into a wonderful habit. I just booked the flights for a trip gets me to London on 17 August and back home on 3 September. I was initially hoping that I would spend more time in Europe, but September will be a month for me to do some quiet reflection and will also be a time for me to get together with family as it will mark one year since my mom passed away (who still feels very near to me daily).

I am thrilled to be returning to Cardiff, Wales on 18 August where I will perform The Re-Education of George W. Bush which is sponsored by the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement. I had a great time last year and met some super people. I will spend a little more time there this year.

Then I get to see dear friends in Cheltenham at Greenbelt where in addition to the Bush piece, I will present Doin’ Time in the Homo No Mo Halfway House. I just found out that Matt Redman will be there this year. Nice. James Alison will return as well and has the cutest picture on Greenbelts’ site.
I imagine other adventures will emerge as I have a little time to explore and hang out with friend and Friends. I can’t wait!

But first I am off to Florida where I will do my Bush play and get to hang out with Tom Murray in Sarasota and Tom D in Tampa (and maybe Harry Potter too). It is a good things I like the folks at MCC Sarasota and the Toms and others because Florida in July sounds like a mistake (but it was lovely last year. I just don’t like the sun. I may be part vampire).

I took the photos at Greenbelt last year.

Doin’ Time in West Hollywood

Ah, in sunny LA where I presented a show with Momma this morning at WeHo Church. It is our Dragged Out of the Spiritual Closet piece we did at True Colors this year. This time our audience was mostly gay Christian men (with a smattering of women and a German TV crew that has been stalking me since Friday).

After service we all headed off to The Abbey for some drinks, snacks and chatting. Momma, being the big Hollywood big shot, was immediately shown to the best table in the house and given a bunch of free munchies. Glamor has its perks.

Since I was first visited the Abbey last year with my long lost buddy Joe and filmed my first vlog entry there, I thought I would take out the camera and shoot some more video and photos.

Photos:
1. Daniel Gonzales, Timothy Kincaid and Me
2. Daniel and Momma
3. Momma and Me before our show (I’m playing Dr. Rev. Meadows)
4. Momma momentarily pissed (she got over it right away; she’s classy that way)




Oh, and Nathan, the cute guy who appears in the video next to Momma showed me the following video. Pretty much the funniest five seconds of video you will see.