Sometimes you have to give the people what they want. Imagine my surprise when my mom informed me that for her birthday this year, she wanted to go see Dixie's Tupperware Party, a piece of performance art/actual Tupperware sales party featuring Dixie Longate, a drag queen who makes semi-regular appearances on the WGN Morning News. I always thought I was the one in the family with a soft spot for men in drag, considering my deep, abiding love of Hedwig and the Angry Inch, and my great appreciation for The Birdcage and To Wong Foo, Thanks For Everything, Julie Newmar. I do love me some drag queens. Apparently though, Mom had caught Dixie's act on television, and it had piqued her interest. Surprised, but never one to turn down a chance to go to the theater, I duly purchased tickets for today, Mom's birthday.
The evening didn't go quite as smoothly as I had hoped, as Mom quickly developed some misery-inducing blisters from wearing uncomfortable shoes, which automatically ratcheted her enjoyment of the evening down several notches. I took her to a pre-theater dinner at Franks 'n Dawgs, after last month's blog post sparked her interest in the place, and while she enjoyed the food, she most certainly did not enjoy the walk there from the North/Clybourn El stop, even though it was only a couple blocks. Worse still, I managed to get us lost walking to the theater -- a result of a multi-street intersection featuring more than one diagonal street (when you're used to living on a grid system, diagonal streets can be confusing) -- that resulted in us walking an additional six blocks, or 3/4 of a mile out of our way. She was displeased, to say the least.
Thankfully, Mom did enjoy the show, which was full of bawdy, off-color humor and sexual innuendo, as any decent drag performance should be. Dixie does actually sell Tupperware at her "party;" order forms are left on each chair at the start of the show, and as a result of her act, Dixie is actually one of the most prodigious Tupperware ladies in America in real life. Dixie's back story is that she began selling Tupperware when she was released from prison and needed to find work to support her children and get them back from foster care.
Her unorthodox lifestyle choices lead her to imagine a variety of alternative uses for the Tupperware she hawks. For instance, in Dixie's imagination, a cupcake caddy becomes a jello shot carrying case, and a whipped cream dispenser becomes the key towards impressing a new sexual partner. She also instructs the audience on the fine art of "rimming," or sealing the lid on the rim of a collapsible Tupperware container, and then conducts a rimming contest complete with prizes. In fact, the show was full of audience participation, whether Dixie was gently poking fun at members of the audience, or pulling one particularly clueless man on stage to attempt to use a modern top-mounted can opener. From the looks of it, he'd never stepped a foot in the kitchen in his life and we all enjoyed a good laugh at his expense.
All jokes aside, however, there was a strong undercurrent of female (or "female") empowerment running through Dixie's performance. She reverently told the tale of Brownie Wise, a pioneer in social networking decades before the term gained its cultural and economic cachet. Ms. Wise, as it turns out, invented the Tupperware party and the idea of women selling products out of the home. She became the first woman to grace the cover of Business Week in 1954, and Dixie presents her story as a parable of female determination and success in an often hostile world. In addition to peddling the "best plastic crap on the planet," it would seem that Dixie is also selling the audience a female-centric vision of the American Dream itself.
Although her run in Chicago is ending soon, Dixie is taking her party on the road, and if you get a chance to see her, I highly recommend Dixie's Tupperware Party. Not only will you practically pee your pants laughing, you might just come away inspired as well. But if you take your mom, try not to ruin her evening before the show even starts...