A play co-written by a Dorchester resident was among nine works recently selected by Moonbox Productions to be staged as part of the first annual Boston New Works Festival, which will take place next June 24 at the Boston Center for the Arts.
Kelvyn Koning is the musical mind behind the songs and lyrics in “Prince and the Painter,” a new original fantasy musical that he created along with playwright Rebecca Wright.
Koning, who attended Berklee’s Boston Conservatory and has a background in music and composition, told the Reporter in an interview that he initially had ideas for the story— which he described as “modern steampunk fantasy” — back in 2016. Then he met Wright, who shared similar interests in LGBT issues, fantasy, and music, and their concept of a LGBT-friendly fantasy musical began to crystallize.
“Prince and the Painter” is set in Fidan, a fictional Balkan-inspired country where teenage protagonist Ylber Sassoun eschews his life as a goatherd and runs away from his mountain village to pursue his dreams of becoming an artist. Koning’s music sets the score, drawing on a songwriting style he says was inspired by Stephen Sondheim and the Golden Age of Broadway.
“Since it’s a fantasy musical, we were considering maybe setting it in medieval times, but ultimately we decided on a more modern setting in the Jazz Age,” explained Koning. “With this musical, I’m pulling a lot from 1930s and ’40s jazz, so I’ve been listening to a lot of that. The time period is really interesting and definitely lends itself to the direction of the play.”
Koning then went on to detail the considerations that go into his songwriting process, which he described as being symbiotic with Wright’s crafting of the story narrative.
“I love writing for musicals because you have a built-in character and story already, and that informs a lot of the lyrics,” he said. “When I’m writing, I think about where a character is in their personal journey. And, of course, a lot of the imagery in the songs are based on the setting and the story...the music is all about setting the tone for where they are physically and emotionally.
“One of the really special things about musical theatre is the way it gives us an inside look into characters’ hearts and minds. I’m always considering how is this song helping move the plot, where the character is going, things like that.”
Over the next year, Koning and Wright will workshop the play, conducting table reads, tweaking song structures, casting actors for the leading roles, and soliciting feedback from outside observers.
Koning said he’s “excited to share [the play] with the musical community. Fantasy musicals aren’t that big right now in the theatre world, but there’s a lot of interest and I think there’s a market for them, especially seeing how there’s so much overlap with theatre and fantasy nerds,” he said.
“It’s exciting and important to me to make characters that are specifically queer and trans, and people of color, and to have some specificity for people who might not have historically had roles that look like them and that they can relate to.”
The Boston New Works Festival will take place June 24-26, 2022. For more information and to see the full list of selected plays, visit moonboxproductions.org.