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Writer2Watch: Daniel Zaitchik – YB EXCLUSIVE!

Meet the talented & dreamy Daniel Zaitchik, a playwright/composer & singer/songwriter. Author of Picnic at Hanging Rock and Suprema (with playwright Jordan Harrison), his new musical Darling Grenadine, about a commercial jingle writer’s life and romances, is being developed this July at The Eugene O’Neill Center’s National Music Theater Conference.

Find out who his dream collaborator is, his worst lyrics and whether he likes writing or kissing more below.


Twitter: I’ve joined and quit twice. I don’t think it’s for me.
Instagram: @danielzaitchik
Hometown: Outside Boston
Current City: Los Angeles
Education: Boston University


Q: What was the first lyric you ever wrote?

A: I know I wrote a bunch of bad songs as a kid but sadly I can’t remember any of the surely silly lyrics. There are recordings hiding, mortified, on unlabeled cassette tapes somewhere.  Here’s the earliest lyrical phrase I could find actually written down, that I know for sure was performed not just in my living room:

There is something missing in the cellar, there is no one standing in the hall

There are places sitting at my table, hollow spaces decorate the wall

Q: How ’bout the last lyric?  What have you written most recently?


I was brewing coffee, you were rinsing out your hair

The dogs were eating breakfast, there was jasmine in the air 

Q: What’s the worst lyric you’ve ever written?


I wish that I weren’t so small

I wish my big toe were really a big toe

Q: What was the first song (or album) that you purchased?

A: I’ll go with physical albums. The first cassette tape I remember owning as a kid was Billy Joel’s Greatest Hits Volumes I & II. And the most recent album I bought on CD was Vampire Weekend’s Modern Vampires of the City.

Q: What was the first song you remember listening to?

A: First song I ever heard? Wow, wish I knew. I’ll have to ask my mom. I do have very early memories of listening to Bobby Darin’s “Splish Splash” (I was takin’ a bath) on the record player and jumping around like a maniac. And the most recent song in my ears was “The Thread of the Thing” by my friend Fay Wolf. Both great tunes. Not for the same playlist.

Q: What’s one of your favorite musical theatre songs?

A: “Make Our Garden Grow” from Candide, “Sunday” from Sunday in the Park with George. (…I like choirs.)

Q:What about your all time favorite pop song?

A: The one that started it all: “Let it Be.”

Q: Darling Grenadine is about a guy named Harry who writes jingles. What’s the first real jingle that comes to your mind and gets stuck in your head?

A: My dad taught us the 1940’s Chiquita Banana song when we were kids. “I’m Chiquita Banana and I’ve come to say – Bananas have to ripen in a certain way . . .” It’s pretty lengthy. I still find myself singing it more often than I should. But it’s a great tune. I’m glad I know it. I’ve been known to force my friends to learn it. It includes some crucial lessons about how to treat your bananas. For example: “Bananas like the climate of the very, very tropical equator – so you should never put bananas in the refrigerator.” Chiquita is beautiful and wise. You, too, can learn the Chiquita Banana song.

Q: Put the following things in order from your favorite to least favorite:

Writing, Sleeping, Singing, Cooking, Crying, Kissing, Flying

A: It depends on what kind of flying we’re talking about. If it’s in airplanes, that’d take last place. But if we’re talking about flying with my own wings, that’d take the cake. The rest are impossible to rank! Each one is the most enjoyable in the right moment. It’s hard to kiss when you’re trying to write, and hard to write when you’re trying to kiss. The order will change hourly, but in this particular moment:

Flying (with wings), Writing, Singing, Kissing, Sleeping, Cooking, Crying, Flying (in planes)

Q: Who is your dream collaborator?

A: I’d like to write an epic musical film with novelist Philip Pullman (“The Golden Compass”), in collaboration with an animation studio like Studio Ghibli, Laika, or Pixar. Oh man, now I’m incredibly excited about a not-really-happening thing.

Q: What’s a helpful piece of advice you’ve received about a career in the arts?

A: “Anything you do, let it come from you. Then it will be new.” (Stephen Sondheim)

Q: Can we hear some of your work?

A: Sure, here are two songs of mine:

“Whisked Away” from Picnic At Hanging Rock.

Picnic At Hanging Rock is my musical adaptation of the Australian novel by Joan Lindsay. The story concerns the mysterious disappearance of three schoolgirls and a governess while picnicking on Valentine’s Day in 1900. “Whisked Away” is sung by two characters haunted by the vanishing. Sara and Michael (who don’t know each other) shared a love for Miranda, the leader of the girls who disappeared. Sara, an orphan and an outcast, adored her older roommate, who treated her with a kindness others at the boarding school did not. Michael saw Miranda only once, crossing a stream, on the day she disappeared, but he continues to be tortured by the memory of that moment. It’s been about two months since the day of the picnic. It’s late at night. Sara reads and dreams of where Miranda may be. Miles away, Michael packs his suitcase and prepares to leave Australia for England, hoping to finally escape his paralyzing obsession.

“Beautiful Witches”

This song is not from a musical. It’s just a song. Though I’m often told my singer-songwriter tunes are “theatrical” . . . and I don’t think people usually mean that as a compliment. I guess it’s because I’m interested in storytelling. I don’t set out to do it, but I often end up writing long-form songs – songs that go on journeys, that end somewhere different from where they began. So here’s one of those. It was inspired by the Halloween when I was 10. I went as the Moon.

What’s up next for Daniel?

The next big thing is a series of readings of “Darling Grenadine” in July.

Date/Time: July 9 – July 15, 2016
Location: Eugene O’Neill Theater Center


YB Exclusive photos: Lauren Schneider

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