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6 Questions with Marshall Pailet

Playwright Marshall Palliet has two new plays out: the comedic cautionary tales Everyone Gets Eaten by Sharks and Everyone Gets Abducted by Aliens. We spoke with the playwright about the inspiration behind the plays, his advice for aspiring playwrights, and his deepest, darkest fears (hint: it’s sharks).

Everyone Gets Eaten by SharksWhat was the inspiration behind Everyone Gets Eaten by Sharks / Everyone Gets Abducted by Aliens?

I grew up on movies like Jaws, ET, and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, so I’ve been obsessed with sharks and aliens for as long as I could form thoughts. My dad always assured me that aliens weren’t real and that I was less likely to get eaten by a shark than get hit by lightning. Obviously he was lying. So now, years later, I’m happy to be the voice of truth for the next generation.

How do you approach writing for adults versus writing for teens/kids?

I don’t think I approach it differently at all. There’s differences between Sharks, Aliens, and some of my other work, like Triassic Parq, but those differences have to do with style, not the intended audience. One of the similarities in all those pieces is that—despite the ridiculousness of the situations the characters are put in—I think all of the characters are extremely earnest. In other words, the characters don’t know they’re living comedies, so what’s funny or absurd to the audience is life or death to them.

How did you first get involved with theater?

I was a kid actor. I used to sing and dance around the house, and my parents (not from an entertainment background at all) signed me up to be in local kid shows. A few years later I ended up in New York performing on Broadway. I wrote my first musical with my dad when I was 12, and I’ve been writing plays and musicals ever since.

What kind of theater excites you?

Theater that opens the audience up with laughter, then affects them with humanity. Also anything with confetti cannons.

Any advice for aspiring playwrights?

Write characters and stories that move you and make you laugh—that make you actually physically laugh. If you don’t make yourself laugh, you probably won’t make the audience laugh either.

Both plays feature the character of Dan (Adventure Dan and Conspiracy Dan respectively), who each have a healthy dose of paranoia about sharks and aliens, respectively. What’s something you’re afraid of?

Definitely sharks. I’m way afraid of sharks. Also snakes, instagram, confrontation, planes, mayonnaise, death, and Los Angeles.

 

Marshall Pailet is a director, writer, and composer for musical theater, plays, and animated films, and is the proud owner of a wildly untrained but ultimately well-meaning terrier mix. He directed, composed, and co-wrote the Off-Broadway musicals Who’s Your Baghdaddy; or How I Started the Iraq War (New York Times Critics’ Pick) and the now internationally licensed Triassic Parq (Ovation Award, Best Musical; Ovation Nom; Best Director). Other theater: Shrek the Halls (DreamWorks Theatricals); Claudio Quest (winner of six 2015 NYMF Awards for Excellence); Loch Ness (Best Musical, OC Weekly); The Chocolate Tree (NAMT). Film: VeggieTales: Noah’s Ark starring Wayne Brady (Original Songs). As Director Only: Nikola Tesla Drops the Beat; The Voice Within; Eudaemonia; Uncle Pirate; Stuck; The 49 Project; Thursday; With Kings in the Back; Bat Boy; Escape Artists; and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. He is also on faculty at Molly College/Cap 21 and the Broadway Dreams Foundation. Graduate of Yale University.

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