Touring While Black: Do You REALLY Think I Should Drive?
My name is Dewayne Perkins and I'm a black improviser/writer from Chicago who refuse to accept the notion that I can't wear shorts on stage. BITCH HAVE YOU SEEN MY THIGHS AND SHORTS SELECTION? I'm also a homosexual, so that's fun. I mean sometimes I just sit and stare at the clouds and think "why just be a minority when you can be a SUPER MINORITY!!!!" What can I say, I'm ambitious.
I'm currently sitting in my hotel room at an Embassy Suites in Orlando, Florida on my last tour with the Second City Touring Company. And I was inspired to write this post because something happened last night that is probably one of the most significant thing to happen to me while I've toured.
4 members of BlueCo performed in an Armando at Sak, an Orlando comedy club. Two stand up comedians did 2, 5 minutes sets and we improvised off of that. The improvisers from SAK were all very nice and super forthcoming. But I was still very aware I was the only person of color playing to an all white audience. Right before the show starts one of my cast mates leans over and says "Oh man, I really hope none of their material is offensive." Life is a fucking sitcom so WHAT DO YOU THINK HAPPENED NEXT?
The stand up comedians were like, bam, let me hit Dewayne with a black joke, and then come back up with the gay joke uppercut. The amount of times I physically put my hands across my chest and said "goodnight" and passed away was too many to count. I was just on the side like
Luckily I'm a fucking pro and know how to handle myself while also letting everyone know that joke was terrible and I'm funnier than you. The actual SAK improvisers were smart, funny humans and didn't play into any of the bull. So shout out to them. So the show was still fun. But this is the exact reason why I'm reluctant to play with people I don't know. But what happened AFTER the show is what was important.
The 4 members of BlueCo who played went to a bar and discussed some of the offensive things that were said during the stand up sets. And one of my cast mates leans over to me and says "Hey I didn't realize just how much you have to put up with when we tour simply because of who you. You have to deal with things I never even have to worry about and I'm so sorry for not realizing and acknowledging it earlier."
DING DING MOTHER FUCKING DING!!!
Thank you so much Greg, for saying it out loud! Thank you for letting me know I'm not just the sensitive minority. Everyone needs to know touring is VERY VERY different for people of color and I truly don't think enough people think about it and acknowledge it because they don't have to.
So I decided to compile a list of a bunch of things I've experienced while touring simply because of my race/sexuality.
- Illinois Suburb- Asked for a suggestion of a relationship between two people for an improvised scene. An audience members yells "Slave and Slave Owner." I yell "How about improviser and racist asshole"
- Iowa- Had the owner of the theatre we performed at come up to me and declare "There just wasn't enough Obama jokes" and then precede to tell me why she liked the white men better because they were more relatable. But I'm pretty convinced she was just a sheet a klansman wore that was turned into a human by a sea witch.
- Iowa- Getting pulled over by the cops and praying in the backseat thanking God that I wasn't the one driving.
- Having to go to work and make jokes after another unarmed black man has been shot and killed and pretend you're not sad.
- Cast mates believing I don't want to drive because I'm selfish when really I just feel safer having a white person behind the wheel in certain areas in this country.
- Mt. Vernon, Ohio and not seeing another black person for 4 days. Mind you my phone had no signal in this town except in one weird spot in front of the hotel where it would sometimes work for a couple seconds. We had a free day and everyone did their own thing. I stood in the one spot where my phone kind of worked and text my company and got no respond because signal. So I decided I can walk to Panera it's like only a couple blocks away.
I sat in a Panera as children literally walked by pointing at me to their parents. I got so uncomfortable I decided to leave. As I'm walking back a Sheriff car drives by, he then to the interaction turns around, rolls down his window and slowly drives by me again, like slow enough to look me in the eyes. I get back to my hotel pretty shaken and didn't leave again because I was alone and scared. I finally meet up with the rest of the cast and they tell me about their day of them went for runs, and hiked.
But glass half full, I did eventually found a black person and took a picture with her!
- Iowa - see Facebook post. I am so honored to have affected this young man the way I did. But it's still a privilege to not have the burden of speaking/representing your entire race on stage, a privilege I don't have.
- Had to do a meet and greet in a this old styled mansion in a small town in Maryland. We had to wear feather boas and walk around a banquet hall while patrons told us to tell them jokes. It just had this weird feelings of a slave auction lol. But like, how do you ask your white friend, "does this feel kind of slavey to you?"
- Just last week driving to Springfield, Illnois, we stopped at a gas station. A group of about 7 white men in camaflouge got out of a pick up truck and walked along both sides of me as I was standing outside. One of them then precedes to pats me on my back and say "How is it going buddy?" and then walks away ignoring my white male cast mates waking up to me. My cast mates asked if they were trying to intimidate me but I was still so taken aback. They both looked just as shocked as me, but I think I was the only one experiencing fear.
- Being deemed angry or apathetic towards the work when in reality you're just exhausted by the world you live in.
These are just a few examples of what I've experienced in the short couple of months I've been touring. And I completely understand that that is the world that I live in and that I have it so much better than my predecessors of color. Which only lets me know that I cannot and will not stop speaking my truth until I can ensure that the people after me have it better than I did. Just know that touring sometimes feels very lonely when you are the lone black, or gay, or whatever and just leaning over and letting a person know they aren't can go a long way.
I leave you with this gif of Ellen trying to murder this white women. This shit makes me laugh every single time. Byeeeeee.