“Ms. Pak-Man: Multiple Lives” is a hilarious theatrical piece that was born in Seattle and is now making its New York premiere at The Laurie Beechman Theatre. Starring the beloved and iconic video game character who premiered in the 1980s, the piece is unlike anything seen before. Here Ms. Pak-Man is a pill-popping tell-all who has a fondness for scandalous songs and even more shocking stories about her life and love.
Comedy, camp, video game geeks, drag fans, 80s aficionados, and boozy theatergoers will likely have a special appreciation for the show’s content which was created and is performed by Scott Shoemaker, winner of Seattle Times Best of 2017 Footlight Awards. His take on Ms. Pak-Man is critically acclaimed and has wowed and delighted audiences in Seattle, Los Angeles and San Francisco. Ms. Pak-Man also won the 2015 Seattle BroadwayWorld Award for both for Best Local Play and Best Actor.
Recently Scott Shoemaker discussed his experiences developing this show and other things showbusiness-related.
Meagan Meehan (MM): How did you discover your love for the arts and why do you gravitate towards the theater?
Scott Shoemaker (SS): I’ve loved performing since I was very young. Like many budding homosexuals, my internal life was a whirlwind of drama and far too many emotions, so performing was the perfect way to express all of that turmoil. And comedy, in particular, was a great way to deal with my extra feelings. Plus, I like attention.
MM: What was it about Ms. Pak-Man that so intrigued you? When did you first learn her story?
SS: My partner (in life and creatively), Freddy Molitch, came up with the idea of doing a Ms. Pak-Man show after looking at one of her old arcade cabinets in a bar one night. It sparked a “where are they now” idea and went from there. The fact that her game is about chomping a bunch of pills led to the idea of her having a pill addiction, which brought to mind the trope of the washed-up, addiction addled diva that is a stalwart for a drag character. And it’s really perfect for us because Freddy is a huge fan of video games and I’m a huge fan of Judy Garland, so those two passions have mixed and created this ridiculous show.
MM: So how did Ms. Pak-Man get into the pills? What has life thrown her way that pushed her over the edge?
SS: Well, as I said, the pill thing was too easy because of the game, but that joke isn’t enough to make the character interesting. So, we decided that her problem with pills stems from the fact that she and Mr. Pak-Man went through a horrible breakup and messy divorce in the late 80s. She never recovered from it emotionally and neither did her career. To add insult to injury, she always felt that Pak-Man’s game overshadowed hers, even though for many game aficionados, hers in the superior game. So, she fell into a downward spiral of booze and drugs and homemade drugs and was essentially trapped in a dark maze of addiction, haunted by the ghosts of her past, with no way to get out.
MM: How about Mr. Pak-Man and those annoying ghosts, what’s her take on them?
SS: Really, he’s just a pie-shaped shadow that hangs over her life. She hasn’t seen him in years. And the last time she did, she found out he had recovered from his own pill addiction by becoming a born-again Christian, which made it easier for her to lose interest in him. The ghosts, on the other hand are very much there with her. They are her Supremes-style backup singers — played by fabulous Amalia Larson and Erin Stewart — who are wonderful actors and comedians and make a perfect foil for Ms. P. In this show, we find out that the ghosts aren’t really the bad guys they seem to be in the game. They are more akin to guardian angels who are there to make sure Ms. Pak-Man doesn’t go over the edge with all her vices.
MM: What were the challenges of getting her life story on stage and how did you find a venue here in New York?
SS: Our first challenge was getting the look just right. We knew the show was funny, but it needed to look insane, and strangely, somewhat polished to put it over the top. We were really lucky to find some fantastic designers, Jake Nelson and Jamie Von Stratton, to help us achieve that. Then it became the issue of figuring out how to get people to understand what exactly was going on with the show. It’s high concept idea and really bizarre to see at first, but I think we’ve found a way to get audiences quickly on board and enjoy her game. As far as finding the venue, they kind of found us! I suspect two of our really good Seattle friends, Dina Martina and Ben DelaCreme, told the producers about the show and they did some investigating and found it funny.
MM: What’s your favorite segment and song of the show and why?
SS: That’s really a “Sophie’s Choice”. I think my favorite segment from the show we’re bringing to New York is a rendition of Kenny Loggin’s ode to his newborn son, the 70s classic, “Danny’s Song.” I think it’s my favorite because the Ghostettes and I sing really tight harmonies that make the really drippy song sound fantastic…but in typical form, Ms. Pak-Man ruins the performance with her bad attitude. I don’t want to give it all away, but it’s a major audience favorite, so people should come to the show and see it for themselves!
MM: What do you hope audiences remember most about the show?
SS: I want to remember their cheeks hurting from laughing so hard for 70 minutes straight.
MM: What projects are coming up for you soon and is there anything else that you would like to mention?
SS: We’re continuing to tour Ms. Pak-Man on the west coast, and we have her big annual Seattle show in March. We also have a non-Ms. Pak-Man Christmas show we do every year called “Scott Shoemaker’s War on Christmas” and a paranormal investigation show coming up this summer called “Scott Shoemaker’s: Probed!” They are great fun and keeping us extremely busy and happy. Also, we’ll hopefully be coming back to NY next year!
“MS. PAK-MAN: MULTIPLE LIVES!” will run from February 20 – 23 at 7pm at The Laurie Beechman Theatre inside West Bank Cafe (407 West 42 Street, just west of Ninth Avenue). Tickets are $24, with a $20 food/drink minimum. A $35 VIP ticket that includes reserved seating and a meet-and-greet/photo op are also available. To purchase tickets, call 212-352-3101 or visit www.SpinCycleNYC.com.