Game Not Over: Ms. Pak-Man Drags You Into Her 8-Bit Orbit

Photo courtesy of Scott Shoemaker

It’s yesterday once more, as forward-thinking, Seattle-based writer and performer Scott Shoemaker skirts potentially career-crushing lawsuits by subbing a “c” with a “k,” to bring his singular comedic sensation, Ms. Pak-Man, to the NYC boards for the first time, Feb. 20-23.

Drag meets 1980s video game royalty, in an evening of comedy, confessions, camp, songs, stories, and power pill-popping insanity during which gamers, geeks, drag devotees, and boozy theater-goers don’t have a ghost of a chance of avoiding being whipped into a royal 8-bit frenzy.

Chelsea Community News spoke recently spoke with Shoemaker through the modern miracle of email—an unheard-of technical advance at the time Ms. Pac-Man (oh, sorry, right, Ms. Pak-Man) first took the world by storm, one quarter at a time–much like the way you put yourself through college. That’s okay, hon. There’s no shame here. Only laughter, joy, and good, old-fashioned, filthy fun.

Scott Stiffler, for Chelsea Community News (CCN): This is the first time Ms. Pak-Man has made her way to NYC. What can audiences expect?

Scott Shoemaker: They can expect a wild time, with inappropriate jokes about drinking, drugs, and ’80s nostalgia! Sure, NYC audiences are familiar with the format of a cabaret show from a grand dame sloshing out anecdotes from her illustrious past, but they may not have seen one with this many references to Quaaludes, Bianca Jagger, and Donkey Kong. They can expect to laugh while they’re horrified, in a good way.

CCN: You’re Seattle-based, the same turf that birthed Dina Martina and BenDeLaCreme. What is there in the water? Is there such a thing as a Seattle drag aesthetic and, if so, how would you describe it, and your contribution to it?

SHOEMAKER: There’s definitely something in the air in Seattle. They call it Seasonal Affective Disorder; it happens when the entire region is an Edward Gorey drawing for nine months out of the year. But actually, being gloomy and isolated in Seattle, there is a freedom to be non-conforming and messy, in order to try out weird ideas. Going over the top and trying things out of left field makes sense, because the audience there needs that extreme lift. And truly, Dina Martina is the trailblazer for off-kilter drag in Seattle. Without the genius of Dina showing what’s possible in skirting the limits of comedic insanity, I’m not sure if you’d see that mix of bizarre yet well-crafted acts coming from Seattle, like BenDeLaCreme, Jinkx Monsoon, Waxie Moon and so on and so forth. So On and So Forth are a local duo act that list things and trail off at the end. Riveting.

CCN: What is the origin story of Ms. Pak-Man, and what does she have to offer/say, outside the world of video game and ’80s subject matter?

SHOEMAKER: Ms. Pak-Man didn’t come from humble beginnings at all. She was launched into fame from the moment she was plugged in. She lived a life of excess, wealth, and constant adoration,–until arcades weren’t in vogue anymore, and it all came crashing down. She couldn’t quit the pills and booze, so her famous pie-shaped husband dumped her, and it’s that fall from grace that created this monster diva up on stage.

But it’s her struggles to get her bow back in the spotlight that keep her going. Ms. Pak-Man is fighting to show the world that she’s more than just a video game character with a preference for prescription pills. She’s also a video game character that likes martinis. If there’s one thing you can say about Ms. Pak-Man, it’s that she’s very well-rounded. Not only has she recorded some original music for her stage show, she’s also authored some questionable western romance novellas, taken a stab at entrepreneurship by reselling her stash for profit, and started a line of pretzel-based jewelry.

CCN: “…she shares scandalous songs and stories about her life and loves.” Short of surprise-ruining spoilers, what can you tell us about the promise of this phrase from the press release?

SHOEMAKER: Ms. Pak-Man has really seen it all, since she was the biggest star in the world until the arcades went belly-up. She hung out with some of the biggest stars of the day when she was on the top of the leader boards, and slummed it with some very unsavory characters when she was at her lowest. Oddly enough, the cast of Diff’rent Strokes makes up a good portion of both of those lists. So you can expect to hear real behind-the-screens stories from every level of her career, from rise to fall to bonus stages.

CCN: An arts/comedy/drag-loving billionaire has just gifted Scott Shoemaker with a grant that allows for unlimited resources. What are the first three projects to come of this?

SHOEMAKER: Only three?? That’s going to be tough. First of all, I’d love to fund an actual arcade game of the Ms. Pak-Man stage show, where the ghosts stay put and do my backup singing and every third pill on the board is a bottle of vodka. There’d be an applause meter and bonus points would be awarded for a standing ovation. Next, I’d like to expand and tour my other Seattle show,s like Scott Shoemaker’s: Probed!, my take on paranormal documentary shows like In Search Of and Unsolved Mysteries. We have done one all about alien abduction, and this year we’re going to find and definitively prove the existence of Bigfoot, solely for the purpose of performing a slow-jam duet. But most of all, I’d want to produce my passion project, a one-man version of the musical Annie—the role I was born, then given up, then adopted to play. I wasn’t actually adopted, but I believe I have the range.

“Ms. Pak-Man: Multiple Lives” plays Thurs., Feb. 20 through Sun, Feb. 23, 7pm, at The Laurie Beechman Theatre (inside West Bank Café; 407 W. 42nd St., just west of Ninth Ave.). Tickets are $24, with a $20 food/drink minimum. A $35 VIP ticket includes reserved seating and a meet-and-greet/photo op. To purchase tickets, call 212-352-3101 or visit For Ms. Pak-Man’s Facebook page, click here.

Photo courtesy of Scott Shoemaker


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