Wednesday, September 13, 2006

The people from Iowa.

We call it Middle America, The Bible Belt, "Iowa", Red States, Fly-Over States or as Donna likes to call it Oklabama. This grouping of people was always empowered with setting the standard for what is acceptable in our creative pursuits and our dayjobs. Even though I know that there is absolutely no difference between catering to the mainstream and selling out to the lowest common denominator I want to have a marketable product.

In the thirteen plus years that we have been married we have always known that there will be people in this great land of ours that would not accept us as a couple. That's okay, we live in Hollywood where we are considered mainstream, but whenever we left the protective bubble of Hollywood we were cautious.

Two weeks ago we were in Indianapolis for the Indianapolis Theater Fringe Festival and having drinks with another married couple who did a Mind Reading/Magic act. They were fascinated with the whole idea of storytelling, but wanted to know if we had story about an encounter with racism. I gave my standard response, "The bad news is that we don't have that story about overcoming adversity the good news is that we don't have that story about overcoming adversity". The conversation shifted to business and marketing. Then we were asked, "Do we ever work together outside of Story Telling?" We mentioned developing a morning talk show that we tried out on cable access. Everyone liked our chemistry but while some people wanted to exploit the "Black White Thing" like (it was a novelty) others felt that the interracial element should be downplayed saying that, "the people from Iowa are not ready for that". We also mentioned that since we both have the same commercial agent we would go out on calls together for McDonalds, Sears or some other American Institution. We’re there to read for the same spot. However when we arrive we’re split. Donna gets paired up with the Danzel clone and If I am seen as white I may be paired off with a Caucasian wife or if am seen as Latino I will be matched up with someone of color but there's a lot of cream in the coffee. The fine line between JLo and Beyonce. In the America of McDonalds & Sears, nobody marries outside of their own race. Why? Because someone on Madison Ave. feels that Middle America is not ready for us.

It became very sobering that after performing throughout middle America and being totally accepted as husband and wife, I mean people liked us best when we were onstage together telling stories, we realized that the only time we seem to encounter prejudice is in Hollywood. But Hollywood is really acting on what they believe to be the intolerance of the people from Iowa. People at home aren’t really like that. Then while in Cincinnati I read in the paper an article from New York Times Reporter JENNIFER STEINHAUER

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger apologized Friday for saying in a closed-door meeting in March that Cubans and Puerto Ricans were naturally passionate because of their combination of "black blood" and "Latino blood."The comments were captured on tapes during a speechwriting session between Mr. Schwarzenegger, a Republican seeking re-election, and his chief of staff, Susan Kennedy, when they spoke of their shared affection for Assemblywoman Bonnie Garcia’s legislative style. "I mean Cuban, Puerto Rican, they are all very hot," the governor says on the recording. "They have the, you know, part of the black blood in them and part of the Latino blood in them that together makes it."

When I first read that I admit that I wanted to make a comment about Austrians being historically known for making generalizations based on race, but that’s beneath me.

I forwarded the article to my sister in Puerto Rico who E-mailed me back saying, "The news item came out in both English and Spanish here. The reaction? Ho-hum.At school we are taught that Puertoricans are a mix of Spanish, black (from slaves) and Taino (the indigenous people of the island) blood. The best sample we have right now is Zuleyka Rivera, Miss Universe 2006."

My point here is that we have come a lone way and still have a long way to go. It might help us get there if the creative people on both coasts spend some time in the Fly-Over States instead of just pandering to them or who we think they might be.

To quote Mark Twain, "When the end of the world comes, I want to be in Cincinnati because things always happen there 20 years later."

Stay Tuned

Tony Figueroa
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