Dixie's Tupperware Party
Temple Theater. Des Moines, through Oct. 2, $35-75
Since 2004, Dixie Longate has been taking her Tupperware party to stages across the country, beginning off-Broadway. Until Oct. 2, you can catch Longate and her many plastic bowls at the Temple Theater in Des Moines. But if you haven’t yet been acquainted with Longate’s presentation, allow me to fill you in.
The fast-talking, larger-than-life Tupperware representative immediately endears herself to her audience with her quick wit and sharp attitude. Chucking mints into the seats as she tells us to turn our phones off and look for the emergency exits, Longate wastes no time acclimating us to the pacing of the show. And she delivers all the way.
After a brief(ish) introduction, she presents her Tupperware. Bowls, can openers, tumblers, party trays, pitchers and more take center stage as Longate invites audience members to participate in demonstrations that usually end up in shenanigans. Although she is our leading lady, she encourages audience interaction in a way that feels authentic to the ethos of direct sales parties.
And while the night is mostly fun and games, Longate also ruminates on the history of Brownie Wise, the creator of “party plan” marketing and one of the key people responsible for Tupperware’s success. Throughout the show, Brownie Wise is elevated to an almost god-like figure, an idol who we all end up praying to. And yes, it’s campy. But it’s also an oddly genuine moment where a pioneering woman who was largely forgotten by a successful corporation finally gets her spotlight.
Longate also doesn’t shy away from sharing her personal story with us. In between demos, she sips wine and tells us about her three deadbeat ex-husbands (who all happen to be dead now) and the children they gave her. These moments, while retaining some humor, are an abrupt shift into serious waters. But they never feel out of place. At the end of her confessions regarding domestic abuse and infidelity comes a message that is the crux of the whole show: you deserve to love yourself, even if the world doesn’t seem to love you. So do what you love, even if it’s hawking Tupperware to your besties in your living room.
If you’re skeptical of direct selling, you’re certainly not alone. Recently, direct sales companies and multi-level marketing companies (MLMs) like Amway, LuLaRoe, Herbalife and, to a much lesser extent, Tupperware have been coming under fire in documentaries and online anti-MLM communities for celebrating predatory sales models. Most companies require representatives to purchase their stock outright and then resell it to friends and family, which primes representatives to lose money in the long run while the company still profits. But in spite of or maybe because of this, you may still enjoy the show. Longate skillfully pokes fun at the tropes associated with MLMs while giving credence to the reasons why people are so attracted to the direct sales model. Plus, she isn’t trying to recruit you to sell Tupperware. She knows you’ll never be able to do it as well as her anyway.
Overall, Dixie’s Tupperware Party promises a night of innuendos, gut-busting physical comedy, and a reminder of how many plastic containers actually live in your cupboards. The genius of the show is apparent in many ways, but Dixie Longate’s most powerful trick may just lie in the universal appeal of a tight seal.
Purchase your tickets at the Des Moines Performing Arts website. Tickets range from $35-75.This production is recommended for ages 16 and up.