BUST Magazine

The last word I would use to describe spoken word artist Pandora Scooter is ‘shy’. From her colorful coif to her energetic arm gestures, it’s hard not to listen to what she has to say. There is very little that Pandora won’t talk about. A regular stage banter may revolve around anything from sex in an airplane lavatory to ‘labia-licking’ ladies. An advocate for every single color of the sexuality spectrum, Pandora strives to send the crucial message - especially to the youth - that there’s no such thing as ‘wrong’ when it comes to sexual identity.

I first saw Pandora perform at my high school in 2005. Our school’s GSA wasn’t the strongest, but we still had weekly meetings and a handful of fairly active members. Pandora’s performance was what this school needed - a bold voice willing to talk about pride and sexuality in an environment where both topics were rarely discussed. A place where, like most high schools, statements like “That’s so gay” and “You’re a faggot” were thrown around as casually as “‘Sup?”

She continues to spread her message of anti-hate up and down the east coast and across the country, performing at schools, theaters, and festivals. Pandora’s newest show, Outwordly Fabulous, targets bullying and homophobia - two topics that have dominated headlines in the U.S. for far too long. A regular on the Women Of Substance radio and winner of the SpokenKnowledge 2008 DNC Contest, Pandora Scooter makes spoken word accessible and enjoyable for people of all ages. You can find her as a featured performer at the annual Out, Loud & Proud at NJPAC. Find out more about Pandora and listen to recordings of her poetry and music on http://www.pandorascooter.com.


1.) In your poem “Chilled Hot Cocoa”, you talk about labels and the need to combine  characteristics to accurately describe the complex, layered nature of humans. While I would call you a ‘spoken word artist’, I also think ‘comedian’, ‘performance artist’, ‘public speaker’, and ‘activist’ fit you well. What do you define yourself as in that sense?
So often people slap labels on other people without considering how the person self-identifies.  That's a huge issue in the gender-queer community. So, I've learned to always ask a person I meet how they self-identify, so that I can use pronouns and references that are comfortable for them, regardless of my own feelings. As far as my work goes, I've been categorized as everything from a performance poet, spoken word artist, poet, writer, artist, performance artist, stand up comedian, comedienne, activist artist, actor, teacher, preacher and radical revolutionary. Personally, I like performer.  'Cause when all is said and done that's what I do: I perform.

2.) Why spoken word?
I love shaped language. Sculpted words. Metaphors. Verbal gymnastics and fireworks. I know that I could give a riveting speech on a lot of the topics I write about, but they wouldn't be entertaining, they wouldn't wow the audience, they wouldn't get me the attention I want to get across the message I'm living to communicate.  Plus, some people are able to hear difficult concepts if they're put into rhyme or into metaphors.


3.) Your current project, OUTwordly Fabulous, is a spoken word show about anti-bullying. Tyler Clementi’s death was especially frightening to me because his tormentor is from my old school district. You are passionate about working with the youth. What do you think needs to be done by school districts to prevent such tragedies from occurring?
Teach Compassion Literacy. What is Compassion Literacy?  It's a phrase I came up with to refer to the ability to be fluent in the ways of being compassionate: a) putting oneself in another's shoes, b) using one's imagination to surmise what that other person is experiencing, c) knowing oneself enough to know how to relate to what that other person is going through, and d) having the self confidence to be able to take positive action in a moment of conflict.

Children need to learn how to be more compassionate. Unfortunately, the society and pop culture teaches the opposite: every person for her/himself and the philosophy or "Whatever!"  And that's just the kids. The adults have to learn to be more compassion in every. aspect. of. our. lives.  Someone cuts you off on the Turnpike, what does it really cost you?  Someone bumps into you on the subway?  They're the ones who are troubled -- obviously. Hate doesn't help.  Bitching doesn't help.

To help the situation, schools can also offer counseling for the bullies, avoid talk that victimizes those being bullied and demonizes those who bully, do a class-long review of dealing with bullying once per month, have bi-weekly training sessions for parents.   


4.) In one of your YouTube videos, you declare that you spell ‘woman’ the traditional way, as opposed to ‘womyn’. Does ‘womyn’ bug you?

Oh...jeesh.  You caught me.  I did say that.  Um....yeah.  I totally understand taking back the word "woman" (from "wo" "man") and making it its own word.  I think at the time I felt like we could do that just by being strong women.  But since then I've noticed the power of words and of self-referential terminology.  If I'm going to agree to use the term "Zhe" to refer to someone, I think I'm going to be okay with 'wymmyn.' 5.) What does today’s feminism mean to you? Do you define yourself as a feminist?

If defining myself as a feminist means not putting energy into fighting for equal rights for men, too, then, no, I'm not a feminist. I'm a Humanist. I'm interested in evening the playing field for everyone.  Feminism means allowing our girls and women (and wymmyn) to be self-defining. I just have to look at the last Presidential election to see that sexism is alive and thriving here in America. But Feminism also means being aware of what's going on on the global scene. Feminism today is about choosing one part of the sexism puzzle and taking it on as your mission.  That's how we're going to get it taken care of. 

6.) In “The Alphabet”, you shout “Ellen Degeneres!” for ‘E’. Who else inspires you?

Ani DiFranco (biiiiig surprise, I know), Dr. Seuss, Tupac Shakur, Ice-T, Quincy Jones, Laurie Anderson, Margaret Cho, Queen Latifah, Tracy Chapman, Mozart, John Cage, Anne Sophie Mutter, Nikki Giovanni, Alice Miller, Oscar Wilde, Joe Orton, Jello Biafra, Sonia Sanchez, Suzen-Lori Parks, Caryl Churchill, Paula Vogel, Meryl Streep, Alanis Morrisette, Bjork and, of course, Madonna and Lady Gaga.
 
7.) Since you’re a poet, I have to ask...what are your three absolute favorite words?
Yes. Maybe. No.


If you would like Pandora Scooter to perform at your local theater, school, pride center, or community event, send in a request via the Booking page on her site. You can also contact her directly at pandora@pandorascooter.com.  

Here is a video of Pandora performing her piece, "The Alphabet" :

[video:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rM2DzqI5QQ8&feature=related 425x344]

A performance of "Others", the SpokenKnowledge-winning poem :

[video:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iOv_ZfhBRg4 425x344]


Thanks again to Pandora!

 

Curve Magazine

Her candor, creativity and high energy are evident in her provocative yet tender presentations and her message is constant: "Accept yourself, whoever you are today."

Endorsement

“Pandora Scooter’s ‘I AM ENOUGH’ is an empowering and artistic means of engaging communities with the issue of LGBTQ youth suicide. It is necessary that we talk about suicide if we are serious about preventing it. It is necessary to give LGBTQ youth a safe space to share feelings about the very real challenges of being queer youth. Pandora candidly addresses issues that resonate with queer youth. She creates a space to identify with the struggle and the feelings, and the process of healing, inviting the audience to laugh with her and to cry with her, and to recognize we ARE enough.”

Sarah Bahnson

Suicide Prevention Specialist

Southern Arizona AIDS Foundation

Endorsement

It was my pleasure to discover Pandora this Saturday at the New Jersey GSA State Convention.  Her work was amazing and the audience reception she received was overwhelming. 

Endorsement

"We've never seen anything like Pandora Scooter at the Dirty Dog before! She's amazing."

News 8 Austin, TX

"Pandora is as pumped up as she pumps up the audience."

Endorsement

Our audience was blessed by Pandora's performance here at NJPAC. She is absolutely awesome!

Endorsement

Pandora Scooter's voice is an intrepid, line-drive, take-charge, and charming advocate for all of us underdogs.

Endorsement
     I saw Pandora Scooter perform at a retreat for a non profit organization I would be working with during my sophomore year. At that point, I was not happy to have to listen to yet another speaker either about substance abuse, racism, and/or bullying. Pandora was introduced to us as a speaker about bullying and I felt myself preparing to nod off into a daydream for the following hour and a half while she lectured us and said whatever it was she needed to say.
      However, she grabbed my attention when she began to perform a scene. That's right, not just to talk but to act. I could tell ten seconds into the scene that it was about a teenager who committed suicide to escape bullying. Suicide is always something that I have taken interest with because I met a boy, Markkus by convincing him not to commit suicide. I remember seeing my friend crying in the hallway one day after she told me one of her best friends was going to try to kill himself. So I did what I do best, I Facebook stalked him and I sent him a message just to let him know that people cared, even me, a complete stranger.
      In one section of the scene, she played the victims mother and I found myself choking by tears because she was just so real. The desperation to want to save someone was familiar to me and I just could not believe how well she acted as a mother who just found her child dead.
      For the rest of her performance, I was engaged, interested, and very impressed. Out of all of the speakers we had at that retreat, I think we all benefited most from her performance because she was so relatable and memorable. 
NewYorkTheatre.com

Pandora Scooter's performance is a force of nature.