Early in the pandemic, I attended a series of happy hour cocktail classes presented by Maxine’s Tap Room, the venerable institution in downtown Fayetteville that’s become a nationally recognized maker of drinks.
The shows were hosted by the bar’s professional staff, and I learned how to make a caipirinha, among other drinks. These how-to short courses took place in May and June, before the limited reopening of bars.
Somehow, nearly 10 months later, we still find ourselves in much the same predicament. Bars and restaurants remain at limited capacity, and large-format live performances put too many people too near to each other, so they are off-limits as well.
What: “Dixie’s Happy Hour”
When: 8 p.m. Feb. 26-28 and March 4-7
Where: Streaming via the Walton Arts Center
Cost: $35 plus fees
Tickets: 479-443-5600 or waltonartscenter.org
And so I found myself at another virtual happy hour cocktail-making event on Thursday (Feb. 25) night, although this one purposefully didn’t meet the rigor of those early classes from Maxine’s.
Fayetteville and the Walton Arts Center in Fayetteville are one of 21 “destinations” for the streaming-only production “Dixie’s Happy Hour.” Dixie is the cocktail swilling southern belle drag persona of performer Kris Andersson, and The Walton Arts Center previously hosted Andersson’s long-running one-person comedy show “Dixie’s Tupperware Party” in February 2019. The “Happy Hour” show is available in Fayetteville from Feb. 26-28 and again from March 4-7. It’s meant to be watched synchronously at 8 p.m.
The “Happy Hour” production is designed as a fundraiser for arts organizations, according to the Los Angeles Times, which recently interviewed Andersson about the production and its profit-sharing mechanism. It’s a match that works – after months without in-person programming, arts organizations need the revenue. And after months of weathering the pandemic at home, arts patrons could use a drink. The Walton Arts Center has arranged for add-on cocktail kits that can be purchased at local liquor stores for the occasion.
The multi-camera video follows Dixie’s journey through the four food groups: tequila, vodka, rum and gin. Dixie starts by discussing how to make a margarita using the tequila – which she calls “the appetizer of alcohol” – and continues from there. She quickly explains how much money can be saved by visiting a bar during happy hour and finding 2-for-1 drink specials. “Consider me your financial advisor,” Dixie says.
In between the splashed-together cocktails, Dixie spins yarns about living in a trailer park in Alabama. There are some laugh-out-loud moments where she discusses her sex life and her attempted seduction of an internet repair worker. There are also more subtle moments of humor, often through malapropisms like her reference to “The Amityville Hoarder.”
It’s not all fun and drinking games. Dixie talks with a subdued reverence about her family, including her memaw and the prayer blanket that Dixie loved to wear as a cape when she was pretending to be a superhero.
I had more fun during the manic periods of the show, which are full of sass, burns and easy-to-make cocktails (although I would suggest caution at trying to match Dixie with four full-sized cocktails in 95 minutes – I found I couldn’t). The slower moments, where Dixie explains her mantra of finding the sparkle in everyday life, felt a little more forced or contrived. It also felt like a bit of a missed opportunity in discussing the pandemic. We don’t really establish the “why” of drinking at home, and the only reference to our uprooted lives was Dixie’s mention of her kids shifting to at-home school.
I suppose I’m trying to say I’d love to slug back a hastily made cocktail with Dixie, but I don’t know if I’d pick her as a life coach.
To be fair, I’d slug back a cheap cocktail with ANYONE right now. Nearing a year since we retreated from our public routines and arts organizations shuttered for the pandemic, we still need entertainment. Consider this show a bedazzled way to support the Walton Arts Center.