By Jessica Neu
“If there is a nuclear holocaust, what will be left? Cher, cockroaches, and the can opener.”
This line comes near the end of the hilariously raunchy yet clever Dixie’s Tupperware Party, playing at the Greer Cabaret Theater through May 28, 2022. The show’s premise takes audiences to what appears to be a traditional Tupperware party. We learn it originated 75 years ago by an unknown housewife named Brownie Wise and is hosted by Dixie Longate, the star of the one-actor show.
Originally opening off-Broadway in 2007, Longate (Kris Andersson) returns her fast-talking, hilarious show to Pittsburgh. She also recently found success with her first streaming show Dixie’s Happy Hour, created during the COVID-19 lockdown.
The caveat here is Dixie’s reverence combines spunk, veracity, crassness, and warmth. At the same time, she leads the audience through the practicality of her Tupperware collection. (Available for purchase via catalog at your table). But breaks the fourth wall to create an interactive experience, so we are actually guests at her party.
The party features such items as spill-proof cups, chip and dip bowls, and of course, the indestructible can opener. These items, along with the rest of the Tupperware presented in the show, function as a tightly-sealed, spill-proof metaphor for the American woman’s life and their ongoing fight for equality in a patriarchal society.
Dixie is a single mom of three kids who fought to get off parole and struggled to pay the bills. A Southern gal from Alabama, she is relatable and witty. Dixie portrays the common woman with perfectly idiosyncratic intonation, nuances, and empowering authenticity. Yet, she could easily be your next-door neighbor.
The show’s tagline, “not your grandmother’s Tupperware party,” refers to Dixie’s continuous sexual humor, innuendo, societal commentary, and suggestive impromptu comments. These are directed toward a handful of audience members, which become cleverly timed recurring jokes throughout the show. However, Dixie situates the historical context of the Tupperware party beginning with Brownie Wise’s ingenuity and frames the advent of the party in the post-WWII era. This was a time in America when women took on traditional male vocational roles throughout the war but were quickly dismissed back to the kitchen and their repressed, marginalized space in society. As Dixie states, “women were told they do not matter.” She triumphantly leads the audience through a mantra reminding each and every one of us that we do, in fact, matter despite what anyone else may say or do. The point still remains that women could not always express themselves in the post-WWII era as freely as Dixie does on stage. Therefore, as the party carries on with boisterous laughs and precise comedic timing, you are left to ponder if maybe it actually is your grandmother’s Tupperware party, just one that she could not express freely in a pre-feminist America. Sexually charged, vulgar discourse is not a new phenomenon. Still, before multiple waves of feminism and societal changes, women kept discussion of taboo topics sealed as tightly as the lid on Dixie’s special marinade Tupperware. Therefore, the Tupperware party represents a closed, safe space where women could freely banter and oppose hegemonic social constructs throughout history. Perhaps, just perhaps, our female predecessors did speak this way…and oh, what a party that would have been!
As audiences enjoy this party in a post-feminist moment, American women are liberated to take ownership of their sexuality and bring once-taboo topics into a publicly discursive space. This Tupperware party is the ideal space for such revelry. Brownie May’s ingenuity and tenacity in turning the Tupperware party into a business empire remind us that success is equal parts courage and community. The Tupperware party represents togetherness. There is a bond between people, even if for a brief moment, where stories are shared and everyone matters. Women need community, especially in the current digital era, which Dixie brilliantly critiques for its themes of isolation and loneliness as the paradox of the Tupperware party. The Tupperware party symbolizes the human interaction that could pull someone out of a desperate moment.
Tupperware’s indestructibility is comparable to that of a woman’s spirit. Even when faced with unimaginable hardship or adversity, a woman can stand back up, retain her pride and take a small step outside her comfort zone. Hoping that things will change for the better. But through this adversity, a woman’s daily work is never done. That Tupperware containing last night’s leftovers also holds someone’s hopes and dreams, tightly sealed because she will achieve her goals one day.
Dixie throws a party that sells Tupperware but celebrates the intersection of feminism and community. It is a place where people are more important than money or winning first place in a selling contest. A place where we remember what it is to be with people. A time when we actually talked to our neighbor.
Thank you, Brownie Wise, and thank you, Dixie. You matter.
For more information and tickets visit: https://pittsburghclo.culturaldistrict.org/production/78970/dixies-tupperware-party?_ga=2.142454769.2144549242.1652394084-1548724889.1634673154