“With characteristic humour, realistic projection, and an inspired use of Zoom features, we are invited to look at our present world from the perspective of an entirely imaginable attractive future. This unique way of addressing the practical challenges of climate change is unlike anything I have seen before.
–Shirley McMillan, Irish author
What is OK Zoomer?
It is a custom-designed live interactive performance on Zoom. Each performance is uniquely tailored to the hosting organization.
For instance, in the fall 2020 semester Dr. Jane Ellen Nickel invited Peterson Toscano to work with a group of her students at Allegheny College. As part of the Religion and Ecology Class, the students needed to complete a service learning activity. With the Covid-19 Pandemic shutting most places down, they instead worked with Peterson to produce OK Zoomer!
The students researched their own campus and the wider Meadville, PA community to identify change agents who are contributing to promote justice, equality, food security, and climate action. They conducted interviews remotely through email, phone, and Zoom with these individuals and organizations. They shared their findings with Peterson. The students also compiled a folder of images of these “action figures.”
Half the class took on the role to promote the show, designing a PR campaign, creating posters, etc. The other half worked with Peterson on the production, filming B-Roll footage, working not he script, and taking on various roles during the live performance.
When it was all done the students shared expressed how deeply meaningful and stimulating it was to be involved in a project like this.
Thomas writes: This has been one of my most interesting and fulfilling community projects that I have been a part of! Such a great way to bring the community together, albeit over zoom, and to be able to provide those community members with some much needed appreciation during these less than stellar times!
Megan writes: I have never laughed and smiled more during a community project. I was so happy to be able to show a bit of gratitude to the amazing individuals and groups that makes Meadville special.
Here is the result of their efforts
History behind OK Zoomer!
After the Coronavirus Pandemic forced the Richmond Friends annual retreat on-line, they asked if I could perform one of my shows via Zoom. I explained the new platform requires new work. Zoom provides a stage where audiences can engage with a performer and the performance. It also demands performers create material that is designed for the audience. In this case, I custom designed, OK Zoomer! a new play just for Richmond Friends.
The performance exceeded their expectations and deeply affirmed them as a community and the work they have been doing around justice, human rights, ecology, environmental racism, and climate change. I realized I could customize the show for other groups: schools, universities, conferences, and organizations.
Weeks before the performance, I began to work with the even organizers to learn about the community and individuals. I was curious about people who have made contributions to make their community and the world a better place. This included people in the group and the region. I asked them to include people who have since died or moved away from the community and notable organizations and initiatives. I also asked them to tell me about young people who have already signaled their interests in taking their part in addressing local and global issues. In addition to sending me information about these people, they sent me images of people, places, logos, and things easily recognizable.
With all of this information, I customized the performance, including a 10 minute film I showcased in the center of the performance. Using other interactive on-line tools in Zoom and outside of it, they saw the data they gave me come to life.
Explaining a performance is no fun. You need to see it to understand how it works and how it might work for your group.
Inspiring and interactive, Peterson's amazing Zoom presentations always live up to my high expectations. Thank you, Peterson, for your creativity, your engaging vision, and for challenging us via your incredible array of Zoom techniques to connect people not only with one another but also with pressing climate issues needing our urgent attention and global action.
Featured Photo by Simon Haslett on Unsplash