Tori Scott has been performing her hit solo cabaret for a decade. Though she hadn’t set out to become a cabaret performer, her loyal fanbase proves she found the right path. Her next show, Tori Scott Is a Sell-Out at Joe’s Pub November 12, is a mix of her signature risqué humor and booming belt. When she’s not onstage, Scott works as the Manager of Major Gifts at Off-Broadway’s MCC Theater. Here, she shares her secrets to creating cabaret that lasts and her favorite part about working for the esteemed theatre company.
How did you first get started in the cabaret scene?
About ten years ago I was a bit overserved at a gay bar that is now gone called Vlada, when my friend who was bartending asked if I wanted to do a show upstairs one night. They were looking for different acts and I said "Sure!" The next day I woke up and thought “What have I done?" But I had made a promise, so with the help of a friend I put together a short show back in 2007, and then off-and-on for a couple years continued to perform at Vlada. Then in 2012, Joe’s Pub offered me a show and the rest has been such an incredible journey!
What was the name of your very first show? What was the premise and how did you land on that theme/storyline?
I didn’t have a title for my first show, but because it was a gay bar I made my show a lot about the gay influences I’ve had over the years. And I believe it was also a celebration of drinking! (Something that hasn’t changed.)
A lot of people think cabaret is just putting together a lineup of good songs you like to sing, they don’t realize the craft behind it. How would you explain the process of putting together an act that works?
I enjoy storytelling. I like to look at the things that have happened in my life—whether disappointing or tragic or hilarious—and celebrate those moments. Honesty can be really funny! So I like to outline the stories I want to share and then from there think about the songs that help tell the story. Or sometimes a song reminds me of a moment in my life and that ends up dictating what I want to talk about. It’s actually really fun to plan new shows. And I have a great team. I have been working alongside [Playbill Deputy Editorial Director] Adam Hetrick and my music director Jesse Kissel since our days at Vlada and we have so much fun reliving this embarrassing moments in my life and putting it to music.
How do you continue to come up with new material and stories that are still authentically about you?
I enjoy having a good time and I enjoy making people laugh, so as long as I can continue to laugh at myself I can continue creating material. It’s very healing to laugh at myself and it’s enjoyable to make people laugh.
Tell me about writing/programming Vodka is the Reason…
This Christmas show is an annual show I’ve been doing now for the past three years. Each year I add a couple stories. It’s a look back at my childhood growing up in Texas. I was obsessed with musical cast albums and Barbies. I also spent a lot of my childhood performing as an elf in nursing homes. This is a fun way to relive those childhood moments around the holidays. It’s also not just holiday music, which I think can be refreshing in the middle of December.
You work full-time for MCC. How did you first become involved there? I started working there in 2014 and have been helping fundraise for their new building on 52nd and Tenth! It’s going to open in late 2018 and it’s been wonderful being a part of this team. Being surrounded by so many creative people with a passion for theatre has only made me more creative.
What can we do to get more women in leadership positions at organizations like MCC and also doing their own solo acts?
I think there are some great women in leadership roles. I immediately think of Shanta Thake who runs Joe’s Pub. Her leadership is inspiring and she is an incredible human being. I think that we have to be vocal and continue to hold organizations and theatre companies accountable and let them know we want to see more women and more people of color in leadership positions. We want to see more women and people of color directing, playwrights being produced, actors being hired! We have to continue to support each other and be vocal about the work we want to see on stage.