SELINSGROVE — Performance artist Peterson Toscano's never takes a direct route to make a point.
Toscano, a Sunbury resident who has performed in venues around the world, decided to write a show about climate change that wouldn't "bore" people, he said.
The result was "Everything is Connected,” an evening of stories — most weird, many true — performed Wednesday night before an audience of about 40 people at the Degenstein Theater on the Susquehanna University campus.
The show was part of the University's Center for Diversity and Inclusion Activist Series and co-sponsored by the office of Chaplain Scott Kushner. Kushner said that what is most notable about Toscano is that "he looks at issues in new and fresh ways."
Before the performance, Toscano explained that about seven years ago he became very concerned about climate change, "and I created a whole bunch of new shows. But then I realized that most people can only take about 15 minutes of a discussion about climate change before they shut down.
"It was really discouraging because this is an important discussion to have," he said. "But people are afraid to have it. So I said, OK, I'll do a show that only has 15-minute stuff. But all the stuff leads up to the last scene."
Using comedy and personal storytelling Toscano put together a show in three acts, with pieces that don't seem to have anything to do with each other. But in the last five minutes, it all comes together. Everything is connected and it is all about climate change."
Throughout the show Toscano inhabited characters that had the audience laughing one moment and then being deadly silent in another — it was an all-out, off-beat mental mind trip with a message.
Toscano, who is gay, acted out scenes from the 17 years of his life when he tried to be heterosexual and was in conversion therapy; in the second act Toscano played out a biblical scene, playing Esau and telling the story of Joseph; act three was "what a queer response to climate change would be."
And the response was that we must take action; that we must find a way to effectively deal with climate change.
"Being homosexual in the 1980s, with the advent of the HIV virus — AIDS, virtually meant a death sentence," Toscano said. "We were faced with extinction. I was scared. Gays were not being admitted to hospitals for fear of passing on HIV. But gays became activists and in time, medicines that could control the virus were made available."
In a character that, he said, resembled and sounded like his father, Toscano said that he was hearing voices of people 200, 300 years into the future. "And they were sending a hopeful message. That humanity had survived. And they thanked us for what we did."