devouring theatre, film, and food
One part solo drag show, one part infomercial, one part women’s history lecture, and three parts sexual innuendo, “Dixie’s Tupperware Party” is all parts party. As you enter the studio theater at the Royal George, grab a nametag and a piece of candy from Dixie, who trots around with a candy dish like any proper party host should. When you take your seat, you won’t find a playbill with cast bios, but the Spring 2011 Tupperware catalogue (Dark blue water filters and pitchers are all the rage this spring.)
Dixie Longate, a formerly incarcerated mother of three from Mobile, Alabama, hosts the party/stars in the show, demonstrating the multiple uses for Tupperware merchandise. In a blue-polka dotted dress and three-inch heels, Dixie shows a caddy for 18 cupcakes that could also carry 24 Jello shots. Or perhaps an air-tight water bottle just enough room for a bottle of Yellowtail. And gentlemen, go ahead and marinate your meat in the double-ribbed container: it comes with a lifetime guarantee.
The solo show really shines during segments of audience participation. Raffle prize winners are invited on stage to massage a Tupperware brand ball or compete in a sealing context. Dixie’s improvisational abilities are as tight as the air-tight seal on the “plastic crap” she peddles. Last Wednesday, when Mike had some trouble operating a can opener, Dixie railed into him (“Mike. Mike. Mike. Miiiiiiiike. Mike. Mike.”) Of course, improvisation can lead to unedited material, and the night I attended, there were a few too many lesbian jokes directed at a young woman who was chosen to sit on stage. Of course, by placing the butt of the jokes in a couch on stage, audiences (and Dixie) can see how the person reacts and course-correct accordingly. The woman laughed.
The man behind the woman on stage is Kris Andersson, who a decade ago was working as an actor in Los Angeles. A dare from a friend gave birth to a character who became the third-highest seller of Tupperware in 2003, acknowledged as such during the company’s annual Jubilee. Producers took notice, and “Dixie’s Tupperware Party” transitioned from an evening in someone’s home to and evening at the New York Fringe Festival. The production, in various incarnations, has been on tours ever since. Now 41, Andersson seemed a bit tired at the end of the show where he essentially talks for 100 minutes. An eleventh-hour emotional monologue allows him the opportunity to sit, and when the lights dim and Dixie talks about winning the Jubilee (an annual party celebrating Tupperware’s top sellers), the evening is given some emotional gravitas.
The emotional thread that carries throughout the piece centers on the creator of Tupperware parties: Brownie Wise. Throughout the evening, Dixie worships the black-and-white photograph of Wise, who took the newly-invented Tupperware off the shelves and promoted the product through parties in her home after WWII. At a time when many women were losing their jobs as the war effort ended, Wise, according to Andersson via Dixie, empowered women working at home to earn extra income using their party planning and entertaining skills. Today, Andersson uses his entertaining skills to support himself, donning Dixie’s drag to sex up the prudish 1950s image of a Tupperware Party.
“Aren’t you dressed nice, Mr. Zach,” Dixie remarked as the evening began, reading from my nametag and offering me a sugar-free mint from her candy dish. “My friend was dressed up, too, but changed before we came,” I replied. “Oh, of course, would dress up for the theater?” she deadpanned. “It’s just fine to look like a common whore.”