The hard sell

Actor and playwright Kriss Anderson is a bonafide Tupperware salesperson who turned his top-selling party shtick into a comedic script. The result: Dixie’s Tupperware Party an adult-themed off-Broadway performance.  Anderson does the whole Tupperware thing in fabulous big-hair, potty-mouth drag (A.K.A. Dixie Longate). He also does his interviews in character.

Mountain Xpress: How did you get into Tupperware?
Dixie Longate: I got into Tupperware, I had a parole officer, she was adorable, and she was actually the one who got me into Tupperware. 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 wanna beat somebody). But I got out of prison and she said, “You need to get some sort of job” and I said, “Well, crap, what am I gonna do? They won’t let me into the mall no more because I had some problems.” She had this little candy dish on her desk that I just loved and she told me it was Tupperware … it was like nothing I’d ever seen before, it was so sparkly and shiny. Looks like a piece of crystal. I said “This is Tupperware? Shut up!” and I almost hit her and she said, “No, it is” and she showed me a catalog and I got so excited. She said, “You can sell this stuff” and I said, “Well, what about the restraining order” and she said, “Don’t worry about that.” So I started going into people’s homes and selling Tupperware and 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. So I started selling Tupperware based on that alone and you know, it’s been easy and fun. It’s been a really, really excitin’ thing, selling the Tupperware. And you know, at first I was like “Okay, okay” and I would just go for the party and then I started watching people get more and more excited about these storage solutions and I was like, “Wait a minute, this is great crap, I need to take this seriously” and I did and I climbed up that ladder and I became the number one seller and it’s been crazy. It’s been such a fun ride.

You were the number one seller in 2008. Were you in past years as well?
I have been. A few years ago they changed the way the recognition goes so they actually recognize the personal sellers. They didn’t recognize them before. 2008 was the first time I was officially recognized for it. I know, I was so excited for it! I walked up on that stage, they handed me the microphone (which, by the way, is shaped like a penis, it’s true) and they said, speak into that. I was like, “You don’t speak into it, if memory serves, and they were like, tell everybody – you know, give ‘em some tips and tricks on what you did. I was like, Oh my lord, I get to tell all these people, these people I respect and admire so much, I get to tell them what I did. Shut up! It was such an honor to do all that. It made me happy. I had to go right out after that and have sex I was so excited.

That was at the Jubilee last year in August in Orlando, Fla. Oh lord! If you have gotten the chance to go, it just tickles you right up one side and down the other. I can’t even explain it. Thousands of women shoved in for four days inside the convention center talking about plastic. It just makes you giddy. All these galls are just screaming and talking about bowls. It’s like a rock concert but there ain’t nobody singing. It’s fun.

They used to have themes but a couple years ago they stopped them, which makes me just want to beat a baby in the face. They used to have a night every body dressed the same. Oh my lord it was amazing. We had the best time. We’re hoping they put that back because it was fun – you’d go and dress in a costume and didn’t have to wear no panties because they’d clash with the costume. Who wouldn’t like a night like that?

Have you ever considered selling Avon?
I was just talking to a friend of mind about this. They said, “What about all these other products?” One thing is, I’m a director with that company and when you get to that level you actually sign a non competition clause so you can’t sell another product because they want you to really focus all your energies on Tupperware. Makeup in particular would be hard for me to sell. I totally believe in food storage and everything and how it stretches your food dollar, and I know that some people wear makeup, but I only wear like a light dusting of powder to keep the shine down. Could you imagine me talking about trying to sell makeup when I don’t even wear none? But I say, if you want to [put makeup on] go for it. 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. Go do it.

Have you been on YouTube?
Well there’s a couple clips from my show – not the actual show that we’re doing now but some other events that I’ve done and people have captured with their camera phones and put on there. Nothing too awful. You know how it is.

Your Tupperware Party production kind of reminds me of David SedarisSantaLand Diaries—the way you both turned truth-is-stranger-than-fiction day jobs into theater. Is there any connection?
Somebody had told me about David Sedaris, but I never knew that he had a show out. What happened with mine is that I friend who’s a director in New York. He said, you should really do a stage version. I was like, “It’s not a play, it’s a Tupperware party.” He said, ‘Oh, but there’s something in there.” So we submitted to get into the New York Fringe Festival and we put the show together. It basically took off from there. It got a lot of attention, the producer picked it up and moved it off-Broadway, and now it’s going on tour. But it all happened because I had a friend who said, ‘Put your drink down!’ I said, ‘For what?’ and he said, ‘We should turn this into a show.’ You know they do. I had no idea it was going to turn into what it turned into. That’s sort of the fun of life. You never say no to the opportunities. You just sort of go, ‘Well, let’s try it.’ What’s the harm of trying? At the end of the day, even if you fall down, you learn a lesson.

Is this like “reality theater?”
In a way. We had to write sort of a … I don’t know what you call it because I’m not much of a writer. But we had to make it so people would want to spend money. Instead of saying, I could just go to a regular Tupperware Party for free – we had to make it so people would want to come and buy a ticket. So there’s a little bit of a story to it but it’s like, what do they call it? Environmental theater. In this case, I’m in the audience, I’m getting people up. We’re playing games on stage, we’re doing all this great crap. I basically took the Tupperware party and sort of wrote themes around it and then wrote my theme of what I’ve learned form the Tupperware party after doing it for so many years. There’s a lot of it that’s improv, there’s some of it that’s scripted cause there has to be. People come in and sometimes they get what to expect but sometimes they don’t know. That’s what’s so fun about it. You see people who come in they’re looking like, Oh my lord, this is really a Tupperware Party! We’re really gonna do this! They’re sitting there with their arms folded staring down at the ground. Those are the people I’m like, Get up! Sometime they fight and I’m like, ‘Oooh, I’ll cut you if you fight me.’ 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. But sittin’ down on my time? Come on, get up!

Do you still do Tupperware parties that are not part of the stage show?
I have not since we started the tour at the end of August. During the summer when the show is down for a couple of months before we start up again next fall, I might be doing some parties in the summer. I gotta keep myself active. There are always new products. Every time a new product comes in the catalog, doing a Tupperware party is a great way for me to see what can I talk about to describe this product, how can I sell this and is this something I can put into the show. There are always ways to change the show and develop the show and I do that through my Tupperware parties. 

Through the theater, are you introducing Tupperware to a whole new audience?
I think so. If you talk to people, there are so many people, especially young people, who didn’t even know Tupperware existed anymore. It’s so funny. Everybody thinks it’s something for their grandmamma that’s tired and stale. What’s so interesting to me is it’s so fun and colorful and modern and hip. 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 ‘em why this stuff is better, why it’s been around for 60 years. It’s a superior product. I get to introduce it to a whole group of people who wouldn’t have seen it. It’s like a big advertisement on stage.

Do you have a special arrangement with the Tupperware company so that you’re able to represent them in the theater?
They have been so amazingly kind to me. Being that I’m one of their top sellers, I think that made a big difference. I put my money where my mouth is. But I just went to them, when we did it with the Fringe Festival in 2004, and said I have this idea and would you be opposed to me trying it. They said no, no, that’s fine. But back then it was a very small thing. I don’t think they had any idea it would blossom to what it’s become. When it did really well and got a lot of press, they were like, This is great, look at that! We said, we have a chance to go off-Broadway with this and they said okay. Over time they’ve been so great and so kind. Each step of the way saying yes, that’s fine. I think they’re excited about having a way to get in front of people who haven’t seen the product. I didn’t even have to do anything where I unhinged my jaw to get anybody to sign off or nothing.

How has the show changed in the 4 1/2 years since you’ve been doing it?
It’s changed a lot. When I started doing it in N.Y. the first time, it was really just a party on stage with a couple stories, and people loved it. People really got into t. But as it grew and as it grew and as it grew, it got to having a little bit of a story[line]. When we did it off Broadway there was somebody who came in who did a lot of writing but personally I think it didn’t end up matching up with the things I wanted to say and the things I thought were important. It became a little bit too campy and a little too concocted. None of it made sense to me. Now that we’re on tour, we’re taking it back to the roots of what it was. It’s Tupperware party, but it’s a Tupperware party with a little bit more of a lesson and encouragement to say, while you’re living this live, live this damn life. I’ve watched too many people give excuses for everything that’s wrong. I’m like, shut up. If I can be this pretty and on this many stages telling people about food storage, than anybody can do anything. Get off your ass and stop blaming everybody for your crap. That’s what I love about this country: every opportunity is important to you if you just want to reach out and take it, but you’ve got to get off your butt and you’ve got to do some work. That’s sort of what I wanted to say in the Tupperware Party. It’s gone from being a regular Tupperware party to being something with enough of a message that hopefully people walk home with it and say, oh I had fun and I learned a little.

How are your kids feeling about the show?
They are loving it. They’ve all seen it and they’ve all laughed. My little one doesn’t understand it. He’s only three and he doesn’t understand most stuff. But the two older ones, I have a 16 and 10 year old also, they love it and they’re sort of inspired by it. I’m gonna admit it, I’m not the best mother in the world. I’m doing the best I know how. Nobody wrote no book that has enough pictures in it that I can read. For me, I just try to show ‘em what’s right and I try to give ‘em some good sense. It’s so fun, because they three year-old, I’m teaching him how to make a good martini right now because it’s an important thing to learn in your life. We use the Tupperware while making ‘em. He is adorable. He takes one of those tumblers I always take in the care with me. He just gets the biggest grin on his face every time I put one in his hand because he knows it’s time to make mama a drink. 

What is your favorite Tupperware product?
I love the can opener. At the end of the party I demonstrate this can opener. It makes me crazy. It leaves no sharp edges and it doesn’t get dirty. I get all giddy every time I try to open a can. Every year that they have the jubilee, they launch something new. Oh my lord, you should see us all go crazy. If they put a tumbler full of cyanide-laced Kool-Aid out there we’d probably all drink it, we’re so excited.

Dixie’s Tupperware Party is on stage at Diana Wortham Theatre Tuesday, Mar. 31 through Saturday, Apr. 4 (8 p.m. nightly, 2 p.m. on Saturday & Sunday. $25-$35. 257-4530 or www.dwtheatre.com.)

—Alli Marshall, A&E reporter

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About Alli Marshall
Alli Marshall is the arts section editor at Mountain Xpress. She's lived in Asheville for more than 20 years and loves live music, visual art, fiction and friendly dogs. Alli is the winner of the 2016 Thomas Wolfe Fiction Prize and the author of the novel "How to Talk to Rockstars," published by Logosophia Books. Follow me @alli_marshall

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