Everybody thinks Tupperware is “something for their grandmamma that’s tired and stale.” So says Dixie Longate, the 2008 top seller of the kitsch-iconic food-storage products. “People come up to me all the time and go, ‘I thought it was just that stuff you get at the grocery store,’ and I’m like, ‘No, hooker, that’s different.’ I show them why this stuff is better, why it’s been around for 60 years. It’s a superior product.”
Longate lives up to her top-seller status: As far as she’s concerned, Tupperware isn’t just for housewives anymore. Longate moves the brightly-colored plastic containers to theater crowds, thanks to her adult-oriented (her name should be the first clue) off-Broadway stage show, Dixie’s Tupperware Party.
“I had a parole officer, she was adorable, and she was actually the one who got me into Tupperware,” Longate reminisces. “I’d gotten out of prison and I needed a job to get my kids back (which I think is so stupid but it’s the law … whatever. What part of freedom do you call this, getting out of prison and getting three kids thrown at you? Makes me want to beat somebody).” Long story short, the parole officer suggested Longate sell Tupperware.
“Oh my lord, it was easy and fun and here’s the thing: When you go into someone’s home and do a free party, they give you drinks,” Longate reveals.
Before anyone calls Child Protective Services, Longate is actually the creation of actor/playwright Kris Anderson. Anderson is a bona fide Tupperware salesperson who, in a twist reminiscent of David Sedaris’ Santaland Diaries, turned a truth-is-stranger-than-fiction day job into a comedic script. Only, Anderson does the whole Tupperware thing in fabulous big-hair, potty-mouth drag. He also does his interviews in character.
“I say, anything that makes people feel better, as long as they’re not hurting anybody or a cow or, you know, doing anything that can’t be put on the YouTube, then that’s fine,” Longate advises. Following her own maxim, she allowed “a friend who’s a director” to parlay her food-storage shtick into a show for the 2004 Fringe Festival in New York City.
Describing the show as “environmental theater,” she says: “I’m in the audience, we’re playing games on stage, we’re doing all this great crap. There’s a lot of it that’s improv, there’s some of it that’s scripted.”
Lesson one: If you don’t want to be part of the show, don’t sit on the aisle.
Lesson two: Yes, this is a Tupperware party. Food-storage containers are for sale, and Dixie demonstrates their multiple uses (many of which don’t involve the shelf life of leftovers).
Lesson three: Camp aside, this is a show with heart.
“I basically wrote a theme [based on] what I’ve learned from the Tupperware party after doing it for so many years,” says Longate. “The whole part of being part of a party is you’ve got to be part of the party. Right? You don’t have time to sit down in life. You sit down when your leg is broken because you danced too much.”
Though Longate’s persona may be contrived, her life-affirming enthusiasm is the real deal. Fringe Festival audiences gravitated toward the raunchy charm of Dixie’s Tupperware Party, and a flurry of positive reviews followed. The Tupperware company also saw potential and granted the OK for its middle-America-geared product line to make the leap to a whole new buying public. (This year, Gay & Lesbian reported, “She charmed the socks off all of us by reimagining, for the gay community, the importance of measuring spoon sets (perfect for holding cocaine!) or serving trays (for shots!)… At sea is the best place to see Dixie. She performs on various Atlantis gay cruise ships … by taking something so quintessentially blue collar (not to mention passé) and reconfiguring it for the gay audiences, she’s elevating camp to the high level where it belongs…”)
The show went off-Broadway and is now on tour, and its hostess with the mostest seems thrilled. “It became a little bit too campy and a little too concocted,” Longate says of the off-Broadway production. “Now that we’re on tour, we’re taking it back to the roots of what it was. It’s a Tupperware party with a little bit of encouragement.”
Her message? “Get off your ass and stop blaming everybody for your crap. If I can be this pretty and on this many stages telling people about food storage, than anybody can do anything.”
Read the complete, no-holds-barred interview with Dixie Longate at www.mountainx.com.
who: Dixie’s Tupperware Party
what: Off-Broadway adult-themed comedy with Tupperware for sale
where: Diana Wortham Theatre
when: Tuesday, March 31, through Saturday, April 4 (8 p.m. nightly, 2 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. $25-$35. 257-4530 or www.dwtheatre.com.)