It's so great to catch up with playwright Marshall Pailet, who I first got to interview in 2015. This time around we get talk about the remounting of his show, Baghdaddy, co-written with A.D. Penedo, a new musical based upon the true story of the Iraqi defector whose false intelligence was passed all the way through the CIA to become the justification for the Iraq War, which continues today.
Baghdaddy plays St. Luke's Theatre (308 West 46th Street) through June 25 only. Click here for tickets!
1. It's so great to get to finally get to interview you about Baghdaddy! The show is coming back around after a sold-out run in 2015. What made now the right time to remount this show? I wish we could say we were inspired by the current state of the country, the fact that this administration's foibles and reliance on alternative facts makes our story about one of the most significant alternative facts in modern history all-too relevant. But the truth is we've been planning this production since we closed the 2015 production. It takes a long time to put these things up.
2. Let's go back to the beginning. How did you decide to write Baghdaddy? Baghdaddy was a commission from our then and current producer, Charlie Fink. Doing a show about the intelligence blunder around Curveball (Rafid Ahmed Alwan) was his idea, and it was his idea to make it a musical comedy.
3. Baghdaddy is based upon the true story of the Iraqi defector whose false intelligence was passed all the way through the CIA to become the justification for the Iraq War, which continues today. What was it about this time in history that made you go, "This would make a great musical as opposed to a play?" Again, that was Charlie's idea. Our challenge was to find the why of it. We found the comedy in the actions of the people involved - their negligence was almost farcical. But they were grounded and real because they were motivated by such human things - wanting to be loved, respected, finally getting what they deserved. The music comes both from the comedy and the emotion - this story has both, so musical comedy felt like a perfect (if unexpected) fit.
4. After the show's initial run and prior to this one did you revise/rework the script at all? If so, what was the easiest revision to make and what was the most challenging? Yeah, for sure. Our biggest re-write came between the first version and the 2015 version - the script is almost unrecognizable from that first draft. But for the 2017 production we've made a bunch of changes - some new songs, dialogue. But the story and structure remains the same.
5. In Baghdaddy, characters are contending with their own ambitions, rash decisions, inflexible bosses, unrequited affections and unremitting boredom, until a fax arrives from Germany, with it a golden opportunity. Let's break these down over the next few questions. When has there been a time you contended with your own ambitions? I struggle with that a lot. There's thousands of years of literature proving that when we follow our ambitions blindly, it leads to unhappiness and lack of fulfillment. I know that's true, but I still want that stuff. I've gotten better over the past couple of years - when I get jealous of a fellow artist, I admit it, say it out loud to myself, realize I sound like a douchebag, then the jealousy slips away. It's made me a calmer person.
6. What is one rash decision you made that you now wish you didn't? I dunno - I tend to game out decisions - think through all the possible outcomes to an annoying extent. I made a couple rash decisions in college (and a lot more in high school) that I wish I could take back though.
7. Have you ever had an inflexible boss? If so, what were they most inflexible about? Honestly, I've had some pretty boss bosses. The producers and executives I've worked for have all been great. Not sucking up - I've just gotten lucky that way.
8. If you ever had unrequited affections for someone, how did you finally make yourself understand, they were just not that into you? Haha. Um, yeah. What I learned is that when it's meant to be, it's obvious for both parties. If you have to convince someone they love you, they're probably (definitely) not your soulmate.
9. How do you cure your unremitting boredom? Podcasts. And X-Box.
10. What is a golden opportunity to happened to you? The day I met my future wife. (Cue violin)
11. On "Call Me Adam" I have a section called One Percent Better, where through my own fitness commitment, I try to encourage people to improve their own life by one percent every day. What is something in your life that you want to improve by one percent better every day? To not need a screen in my face at all times of the day.
Marshall Pailet is a director, writer and composer for musical theater, plays, 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 (New York Times Critics’ Pick) and the now internationally licensed Triassic Parq (Chance ’13; Ovation Award, Best Musical; Ovation Nom, Best Director). Other Theater: Claudio Quest (Chance ’17); Loch Ness (Chance ’15; Best Musical, OC Weekly); Shrek the Halls (DreamWorks Theatricals). Film: VeggieTales: Noah’s Ark starring Wayne Brady (Original Songs). As Director Only: Nikola Tesla Drops the Beat (Adirondack Theater Festival); Wonderland (Atlantic Theater Company); Eudaemonia; Uncle Pirate; Stuck; The 49 Project; Thursday; With Kings in the Back; Bat Boy; Escape Artists; One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. He is also on faculty at Molly College, Cap 21, and the Broadway Dreams Foundation. Graduate Yale University.