Category: tour

Doin Time in Iceland

I have been in Iceland for over a week. My travel companion and husband, Glen Retief, is a master researcher. While I procrastinated watching stupid cat videos and reading celebrity news, he spent the past six months instead researching every nook and cranny of our trip.

Iceland is pretty much the most expensive country in the world to visit, so Glen pursued all of the cost saving options–staying in Air BnB, renting a car, and having me serve as his personal chef.

Reykjavik was great fun with late nights hanging out with new friends and even some who happened to be in town for the Non-Fiction Now conference. Now that I am in the Westfjords, my life is quieter but still exciting. But pictures say much more, so here are some photos from the trip so far starting with where I am right now then to Reykjavik.

We are staying in Flateyri, population 180. It is a beautiful little peninsular that juts out into the water with a huge mountain as a backdrop. In 1995 there was a huge avalanche. . 16 people died, 17 houses destroyed, and 20 horses killed. They have since built a giant V-shaped mound to protect the town should it happen again.

View of the fjord during the hike around Flateyri (population 182 with us in it) where we are staying.

View from the window at the Air BnB, which is the old bookstore and is now a museum. We are staying upstairs, hand washing socks and knickers, and cooking our own food.

Part of our hike. So many jar dropping views.

Since Flateyri is a fishing village, we assumed they had fresh fish for sale. But the only story is the little N1 gas station and convenience store. Upon spying a fishing boat come in, we asked the fisherman where we could buy fish. “You want fish? We have fish?” And they handed us this cod. They refused to take money for it.

What to do with a whole fresh cod? Having never gutted or filleted a fish, we turned to YouTube for guidance. Then I made a creamy fish stew like I had once in northern Norway.

Fresh waffles and coffee as we travelled to the Westfjords

Spring in Iceland means loads of gorgeous flowers and so many birds.

Lots of hot geothermal action happening around the country. We stopped at this site. Further along there is a natural hot spring where we soaked and enjoyed the views. The water was not quite so hot as in this pool. Thank God!

What I love most about travel is that I get to meet lots of smart and interesting people. Lee is a student at the university. Lee is interested in transgender characters in Norse literature. I conducted an interview and how to include Lee in a NEW podcast I will produce with Liam Hooper in the fall.

This is Reykjadalur, where you just get changed next to the hot stream, hop in, and soak.

Thanks to my friend, Melissa, I met Alda and Andie, both of the group WotEver Iceland. They are on the forefront of the liberation movement for gender non-conforming and transgender people. AND they are tons of fun.

Gaurkurinn is a bar and performance space that has gotten a reputation for having really interesting acts. Tourists and locals showed up for my show there. They have a big gender neutral bathroom with proper stalls (unlike the flimsy, see-through busy we have in the USA.) This was the sign in the bathroom.

I got around town easily on the bus system, except after midnight. The buses stopped and the taxis were unbelievably expensive. So after a night out with my new queer friends, I stumbled home in the light. The sun never really sets. Just dips for an hour or two of twilight.

I had the absolute joy of meeting Jono Duffy, an Australian gay comic who now lives in Iceland. Wicked funny, very sharp, and wonderfully informed and insightful. He had me on his show to talk about the ridiculous conversion therapy experiences I had. I gave him a copy of my new Transfigurations DVD.

So far I had only one restaurant meal in nine days. I have been eating lots of Skyr yogurt and cooking. But after my friend Melissa recommended I check out this ramen restaurant, I had to order their vegan special of the month. It was reasonably price and delicious.

Melissa also recommended a trip out to a nearby lighthouse. It only took 20 minutes by city bus. That day we walked 8 miles all over town. Although we were exhausted, the weather was too fine to not go out for more. At the end of the day we walked 12 miles.

Since we stayed just a little bit out of town, it was a little cheaper and we had a kitchen. We were also a 2 minute walk from this gorgeous bike path. I took this photo at 10:30 in the evening.

Another view from the walking path.

Reykjavik has lots of murals on buildings. This one is my favorite.

Dandelions! So many. If I were going to be here longer I would totally make all kinds of stuff with dandelions.

 

Oh and pools! With so much geothermal around, there is a massive culture around hot tubs and warm pools. Even the little town of Flatyeri  with less than 200 people has a huge pool with three “hot pots.” We go everyday and usually have it all to ourselves during most visits.

Update from the Road: Quakers, Eunuchs, and Manatees

Ann, Andy, and Heather at Palm Sunday Service in St. Petersburg

After a week in North Carolina with folks at Guildford College, Elon, and Wake Forest, I’ve been in Florida for a week connecting with friends and doing presentations at churches. (I even saw  a baby manatee in the wild!)

I have been able to hang out with wonderful Methodists and some sassy folks at the Metropolitan Community Church, including Rev. Dr. Nancy Wilson, who gave me a copy of her new book, I Love to Tell the Story.

My main reason for being in the state is for Southeastern Yearly Meeting of Quakers. This annual gathering begins tomorrow and goes through Easter.

In addition to periods of worship, we will also take part in workshops and listen to various talks. FWhat I love the most is sitting in the silence of worship before God and listening. While I am happy to attend most styles of church services, they are often too noisy and busy for me. I prefer to be still and know God in the silence.

View from Salvador Dalí Museum, St. Petersburg, FL

My presentations with the Quakers will center around climate change as a human rights issue. While I am not an environmentalist in any traditional sense, I am concerned about climate change as a social justice issue. My hope is to share some of this leading I have while hearing from others who are also engaged in climate work.

After my time with the Quakers, I head up to Tallahassee to present at Florida State and to see my friends, Petra and Liz. In my presentation I will share some of my own experiences of trying to “de-gay” myself as well as share some LGBTQ responses to climate change. I will also perform a scene from my performance lecture, Transfigurations–Transgressing Gender in the Bible.

Spanish moss action in Tampa

Speaking of which, an article about the Transfigurations movie appears in The Blaze this week. I had not heard of this on-line newspaper before, but it is the digital news site created by Conservative pundit, Glenn Beck. I am grateful for the opportunity to share a little about how there are people in the Bible who transgress and transcend gender for their time.

While it is never appropriate to impose modern notions of gender on ancient texts, what I have found is that based on the strict gender norms in the Bible, some of the most important characters broke out of these roles and norms. It is in breaking these that they are often able to do extraordinary and unexpected things.

Perhaps the silliest statement in the article is by the person they interviewed to counter my views. I’m quoted:

“A eunuch in that world was not really a man or a woman — they were considered a third gender,” Toscano explained. “They were normally castrated before puberty, so they had high voices, they didn’t have beards, they couldn’t have families, they couldn’t have children, so they were sexual and gender minorities.”

The Discovery of America by Salvador Dalí

Reacting to my assertion that eunuchs represented a different gender in the ancient world and as such, stood out, Andrew Walker, a Southern Baptist Convention commissioner said, “His interpretation is nothing but shear, unbridled radicalism and it’s simply brazen because he’s taking an interpretation of the text that scholars have not found to be the case as far as ‘gender non-conformity.”

You can read the article, New film depicts Bible characters as gender non-conforming. But what does the Bible say? for yourself. You may want to avoid the comments.

And for the record, my last name is spelt Toscano. Unless it is a vowel-fluid name and sometimes presents at Tuscano, as it does in the article in some paragraph.

You can see my performance schedule here. Feel free to say hi over on Twitter or Facebook. The road can get difficult at time, and I love to hear from friends.

Coffee, Cars, and So much Color: Images from Cuba

My partner, Glen Retief, and I just returned from a two week trip in Cuba where we both did some research. While I interviewed lots of people for a Spanish edition of Citizens Climate Radio, Glen got lots of information that will help him with a novel he is writing. We also had encounters with many different Cuban citizens (and some Americans including the actor, Danny Glover and the folklorist James Early at La Casa de las Americas.)

In addition, I spent some time with Quakers in Havana where I spoke about eunuchs in the Bible and LGBTQ issues.

I wrote a lot while I was in Cuba, but before I post any of it, I want to sit and reflect on the experience. In the meantime, below are some photos with captions.

Enjoy // Disfruta

View of Havana and the Sea

Statue at Franciscan Church courtyard in Havana

Tobacco drying house in Viñales

Ah the cars in Havana!

Havana street

View of the bay and church in Havana

My sweetheart, Glen at the bizarre Napoleon Museum, Havana

Napoleon Museum entrance, Havana

As a radio guy, I ended up taking lots of photos of the various stations in Havana.

Coffee Beans! Viñales

Talking climate change with farmer in Viñales

One of our MANY meals.

Campesino home in Viñales

Guide at finch in Viñales talks about coffee and rum. (He trained as a teacher, but now makes much more as a guide)

Sunset at Maria La Gorda

 

Spring Tour Begins! Hello New England

Ah, the Coast of Maine

Ah, the Coast of Maine

My spring performance tour begins today! I woke up in New Hartford, CT at the home of my friends Fran and Mark. I feel like an happy daffodil ready to greet the world in hopes that there is no more snow and frost. Ok, that sounds corny, but really I’m excited.

Over the next month I will present at universities, high schools, middle schools, elementary schools, Quaker meeting houses, and churches throughout New England.

Where will I be in New England?

  • MAINE: Lewiston and Portland
  • New Hampshire: Dover, Portsmouth, Concord, Hanover, and Rochester.
  • MASS: Cambridge and North Andover.
  • Rhode Island: Providence.
  • Connecticut: Hartford, West Hartford and Middletown, CT.
  • VERMONT: Burlington.
  • (oh and there is a weird and wonderful diversion to New Jersey in there)

Check out the entire schedule, and if you are in the area, say hi!

Today I travel to Lewiston, Maine to begin with a short residency at Bates College tomorrow March 28.  It will be a full day with multiple presentations.

Climate Justice Discussion

I will begin with a discussion: Race, Justice, and Climate Change. We will explore environmental racism and justice as witnessed in New Orleans in 2005 during Hurricane Katrina and today in Flint, MI. I will also bring my character, Marvin Bloom out to make the connections between asthma and race in NYC.

Homo No Mo

Peterson_Toscano-Homonomo

This play is retired, but seems there is still material to cull from it. Suffering anyone?

In the afternoon I will share about my sordid past pursuing gay conversion therapy and connect my experiences in churches with a class on Human Suffering. The class is actually looking at the Book of Revelation. After reading the following about my own apocalypse about my sexuality in a church that wanted to desperately  fix me or else, she suggested we go with my personal narrative as a jumping off point.

“I was asked by a BBC reporter the odd question, ‘What if you are wrong and you approach the pearly gates only to discover that God condemns homosexuals to an eternity of suffering?’ I replied, Then that God is the worst tyrant that ever existed and does not deserve my worship or submission.

Perhaps not the most original answer, but lightyears from when I sat cowering in the seats at Time Square Church and Holy Furnace of Righteous Rage.”

As a class she wants us to then consider the following questions:

Do humans create images of/ideas about God in response to suffering?  Do images and claims about God contribute to more suffering than they console?  Console more than they cause?  How so?  What kinds of things can tip the balance of this equation one way or the other?

How can/do our attitudes and beliefs about suffering affect our willingness to inflict suffering on others?  To tolerate or become complicit in the infliction of suffering on others?  To resist or refuse the infliction of suffering on others?

New Show!

IMG_3682In the evening I premiere my newest performance piece: Everything is Connected–An Evening of Stories, most weird, many true.

Here is a description

Experience the artful, playful, outrageously funny, and deeply moving storytelling craft of Peterson Toscano. Connecting issues and ideas to bizarre personal experiences, literature, science, and even the odd Bible story, Peterson takes his audience on an off-beat mental mind trip.  A shapeshifter, he transforms right before your eyes into a whole cast of comic characters who explore the serious worlds of gender, sexuality, privilege, religion, and environmental justice. His unique personal journey led him into performance art.

Peterson's bag of tricks

Peterson’s bag of tricks

I will do this show a number of times throughout the tour (and no doubt it will grow and change as I go along.) Another presentation that I will do a lot on this trip is A Quirky Queer Quaker Response to Climate Change. Also on this tour I will give two rare performances of Transfigurations. This show is being retired. I still need to figure out where to have the final performance before the DVD comes out. But you can still see it live in Providence, RI April 13 and West Hartford April 17 (where I will also do something even rarer–preach the Sunday service earlier that same day!)

Oh, and I just learned where I will be for next year’s spring tour: FLORIDA and the Southeast. I have been invited to be the 54th Annual J. Barnard Walton Lecturer for 2017 at Southeastern Yearly Meeting gathering next Easter. My theme: Discerning our collective calling: love, hope, and climate justice. 

So if you are in Florida, Georgia, North or South Carolina, and want to host me with one of my presentations, let me know.

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Booking Now: Spring 2016 New England Tour

Save the Coffee BeanMarch 28-April 22, 2016 I will tour New England universities, schools, Quaker meetings, churches, and community centers with my original presentations. Half the tour is booked, and I am currently looking for more venues to host my presentations. Perhaps you are interested in bringing me to your community or you want to introduce me to someone who might be interested.  Here is information about me and the original storytelling that I do.

I am a queer performance artist and activist using storytelling and comedy to explore the intersections of diverse aspects of our lives and passions with climate change. I see global warming as a human rights issue, an LGBTQ issue, a Black Lives Matter issue, and one of those issues that requires creative communication. I create spaces free of fear and shame then focus on justice, hope, resiliency, and collective action.

My own personal story is bizarre. I was one of those people who for years was a victim of gay conversion therapy, desperately believing I would be more valuable as a gender normative heterosexual. After 17 years and over $30,000 trying to “de-gay” myself, I came to my senses and came out gay. I created the one-person play, Doin’ Time in the Homo No Mo Halfway House, helped produce the award winning documentary film, This is What Love in Action Looks Like, and contributed to the Lambda Award winning anthology, Gender Outlaws–The Next Generation.

In April 2016 I will tour New England> I would like to talk about opportunities to contribute to the conversations you are having in your community about gender, LGBTQ issues, environmental justice, climate change, and our roles on a new planet.

Below are some links for you and colleagues to get a sense of my offbeat approach to climate change. Funny, grounded in science, and infused with justice. These are some of the characters and monologues I have created and use as a jumping off point for discussion with students.

Public RADIO FEATURE: WITF profile on Quirky Queer Quaker Performance Artist on Climate Change and More

 

VIDEO

Marvin and Polar Bears

AUDIO
An LGBTQ response to extinction and extermination

Black Lives Matter and Climate Change
From Homo No Mo to Climate Action–How I got tangled up in climate change

Want to learn about how you can book a presentation or introduce me to someone who might be interested in booking a show? Send me a quick note.

 

Doin’ Time in Tromsø, Norway

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Ooo Tromsø is SO far North!

Today I head north–like WAY NORTH. I’ll be North of the Arctic Circle in the Norwegian city of Tromsø for the International Church Festival. The sun will rise about 7:30 am and set by 4:30 pm, but apparently Tromsø is one of those cities that faces the cold, dark weather with vibrant partying action. The weather actually looks pretty good this week. It is warming there right now than it is here in Central PA.

While there I will perform my newest one-person performance piece, Does This Apocalypse Make Me Look Fat?  I will also lead a two-day workshop about how to create a solo-performance piece. I love it when all my worlds come together–theater, faith, queerness, climate change. I see that happening with the conversations that will come out of my play, which looks at broken bodies large and small. Looking at the broken bodies in history, LGBTQ lives, in my own family, and the largest body of them all–Mother Earth–I learn lessons about resiliency and how to remain human in the midst of crushing pain.

Besides the performance work, I am excited about exploring the city of Tromsø. This island city surrounded by mountains is a brilliant place to see the Northern Lights. If I do catch a glimpse, it will be my the first time. Have you ever seen the Northern Lights? Any viewing tips? One stop I want to make is to the Backbeat Kaffe & Vinyl store. I mean coffee and LPs together. Yum.

After a week in Tromsø, I then head to Dallas, TX and my three week Southwest tour. Talk about climate changes! From North of the Arctic Circle to North of South of the Border.

Tromsø and those Northern Lights

Tromsø and those Northern Lights

I don’t know about you, but I get so tired of dragging big suitcases around with me. I mean I shouldn’t complain. I get to go to some pretty cool places, but for some reason with this month-long trip I decided to go super light. I will take only a carry-on size suitcase and a small knapsack. Shockingly I squeezed in all of my props for three shows and clothes for three climates, including a down jacket, blue suede shoes, sandals, and hiking boots. I have a feeling though I will have to borrow some things from people along the way.

Throughout the trip I’ll post photos on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  What sort of things would you like to see?

If you want to hear a scene from my new play, have a listen to my monologue about the Siege of Leningrad during WWII. It is based on researched conducted by Alex Skitolsky when he looked at first-person narratives of women who survived the siege.

Greenbelt and Beyond. Images from my recent tour.

I just returned from almost a month in England, Northern Ireland, Wales, and Iceland. My primary reason was to present at the Greenbelt Festival, but since I was there, why not visit friends and share my performance art weirdness with others. I love Greenbelt because they “get me.” My humor is both ridiculous and subtle, a mix that works well in the UK. Also, I find the audience is well informed about history, current affairs, and the Bible.

In addition to Greenbelt I spent time in Belfast, Newcastle, Liverpool, London, Wakefield, Birmingham, and Reykjavik. Here are some of my favorite photos from the trip.

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Greenbelt Festival 2015. When it was still dry.

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One of my favorite events–a demonstration about how to use dandelion in all kinds of foods.

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Greenbelt Festival 2015 after the rain.

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On a hill walk outside of Newcastle, Northern Ireland.

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Early morning in recently renovated Liverpool City Centre

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At Conwy Castle in Wales with the REAL LIFE Timothy Meadows.

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View from Conwy Castle. It may have been the best day of the year in Northern Wales.

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Harbor in Conwy, Wales

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Canal near Olympic Park, London.

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Cats know I don’t like them, therefore they love me. This is a London Cat.

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With Canadian friends at London Museum of Science.

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The recently renovated Kings Cross Station

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Shoe collection for refugees at rally in Wakefield, England

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Rally in Wakefield

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People turn up to show support for refugees coming to the UK

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Poppy sculture at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park

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Lovely walk with Jo and family at Yorkshire Sculpture Park

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Surreal landscape of Iceland

Where the ancient Vikings would meet for their assembly

Where the ancient Vikings would meet for their assembly

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Stunning waterfall in Iceland

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Enjoying the Icelandic Sun

Doin’ Time at Dickinson College

April has been a delightful whirlwind with stops at Hartford Friends Meeting, Harvard Divinity School, and Mansfield University. This week I get to hang out at Dickinson College as the Clarke Forum speaker.

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Since Dickinson guest house rooms do not come with a record player, it is a good thing I remembered to bring my own along with the Kinks’ Misfits album.

Whenever I go to a university, I prefer doing a residency, rather than a one-night event. So much of the best work happens in the classroom, around the lunch table, and at student club meetings.

Today I will get to spend time in Andrea Lieber’s Jewish Environmental Ethics class and Anthony Barnum’s Environmetal Sociology class. This evenning I will present my talk: Climate Change–What’s Faith Got to Do, Got to Do with It?

These days more than ever, as we hear of tragic deaths of African migrants attempting to cross the Mediterranean, the epidemic violence towards people of color in the US by those who are suppose to enforce the law, and a planet that is warming and changing faster than many are willing to admit, it seems to me that conversations that look at the intersection of politics, colonialism, gender, science, faith, and justice are essential. I am grateful and honored that I have the opportunity to take part in some of these discussions.

Arizona, New Mexico, Texas! Fall Tour 2015

It has been a dream of mine for a few years now to tour the Southwest of the USA presenting my plays and lively lectures at universities, churches, synagogues, community centers, and theaters. I have performed in Texas before (Rice and Trinity Universities) and in Phoenix for TransForm Arizona and various churches. And I presented at a Sufi Worship Center in Albuquerque on my first cross-country train trip back in 2013. Now I am excited to announce that we are beginning to plan a tour of the Southwest this fall.

I find it challenging to describe what I do. Comedy. Theater. Scholarship. Storytelling. Performance activism? It is hard to explain what I do on stage through characters and in sharing parts of myself as I take on LGBTQ issues, faith, and climate change. Thanks to WITF public radio, I can share this short feature on my work. It may give you a sense of what I do.

So I could use your help. Jane Brazell, my tour manager is waiting to hear from you! I am looking for venues (and contact to venues) to present my original one-person shows.  These include my newest play, Does This Apocalypse Make Me Look Fat? A Comedy about Broken Bodies, Large and Small. It is one person play about body image, resilience, and hope in the darkest times. I also continue to offer presentations about LGBTQ issues and the Bible: Jesus Had Two Daddies–A Ridiculously Serious Look at Scripture, Transgressing Gender in the Bible, and Waking Up from a Biblically-Induced Coma.

Now although I am not an environmentalist in any traditional way, I am concerned about climate change. To me it is a moral issue, a faith issue, a queer issue that intersects many aspects of our lives and is very much about human rights. I have new presentations that take these issues on:

  • A Queer Response to Climate Change–What Would Walt Whitman Do?
  • Climate Change–What’s Faith Got to Do, Got to Do with It?
  • Save the Coffee Bean! An Hysterical Response to Climate Change

Need a sample?


I’m returning to Greenbelt and NEYM in August

I am in the throes of Birthday Season (it extends one week before and after the actual birthday) and the performance gifts keep coming in.

Last night on my birthday, exactly 12 years after I first premiered Doin’ Time in the Homo No Mo Halfway House, I performed my newest play, Does This Apocalypse Make Me Look Fat? for the theater department at Colorado Mesa University.

Today I awoke and waiting in my inbox was not only an iTunes gift card for Bjork’s newest album (lush & stirring) but also an invitation to return to the Greenbelt festival in England at the end of August. This is one of two of the most creative communities that form for just a few days every year but have such a huge impact on people’s lives.

At Greenbelt's Tiny Tea Tent with my dear friend, Anna.

At Greenbelt’s Tiny Tea Tent with my dear friend, Anna.

This is one of my favorite places on the planet to perform because I so often encounter the perfect audience for my work. The mix of faith, queer sensibilities and sensitivities, quirky ways of looking at the world, dry (and not so dry) humor, historical references–none of it is lost on a Greenbelt audience. (I write about Greenbelt here and here.) Check out my 2012 TED-style talk I did for Greenbelt in collaboration with my friend and fellow artist, Carey Gibson.)

BUT before I tottle off to England, I first head up to New England for another creative faith community that changes lives. I will attend the annual gathering of Quakers where I will serve as the Bible Half Hour presenter. While Quakers don’t seem to read their Bible’s a lot (at least among the more liberal unprogrammed silent Quakers I know) there is always a lot of interest in the Bible Half Hour presentations. PLUS, this is where all my Quaker people are from when I first became a Friend, so it will be a lovely reunion.

Sooooo, who will be at NEYM this year? Who will be at Greenbelt this year? Who in the UK (or Sweden??) would like to host a Peterson performance?