Who has inspired you most as an artist, and why?
Christopher St. John: We’re both lifelong fans of Matt Stone and Trey Parker. South Park, Team America, all of it. And the true apotheosis of their work came with Book of Mormon. It was not only hysterically funny, it just blew the conventions of musical theatre wide open.
Scott King: It’s easy to miss the fact that in Book of Mormon, the subject and script were the focus of innovation, especially the “shocking” language. The music is really a tribute to the classic mid-20thcentury Broadway sound, with heaps of added satire.
Christopher St. John: We think that Book of Mormon has opened the door for other people to try taking a fresh look at the musical form. And that’s why we think the time is ripe for a musical comedy like Gayland.
What’s Gayland about?
Christopher St. John: It’s a story of forbidden love, with two people reaching across the mother of all divides: the chasm between gay people and straight people.
Scott King: It’s set in an alternate universe in which almost everyone is gay. And there are just a few breeders. They’re a minority group, oppressed by the gay establishment, struggling for their rights. And our protagonist, a talk show host named Willow, who’s engaged to a rising conservative politician, starts to realize why she can’t set a wedding date.
Christopher St. John: She’s having feelings that are unthinkable in her worldview.
How did you come to write Gayland?
Scott King: We had just finished writing this opera called Oomph!. We spent seven years on it, and we had some productions, so we were thinking about another project—
Christopher St. John: And I was like, “I am never writing another opera.”
Scott King: So we agreed to try a musical.
What has the response been like?
Scott King: We first staged it at the New Orleans Fringe Festival in 2013. That was an hour-long version.
Christopher St. John: And we were blown away by the response. Gayland was in the largest Fringe Festival theatre, Marigny Opera House. And the word of mouth was so good that by the end of the Festival, it was standing room only.
Scott King: One of the local entertainment papers, NOLA Defender, called Gayland “the must-see of Fringe Festival,” and that really helped. The awareness has lingered on, too. I live in New Orleans, and there are a lot of people who ask about Gayland when I run into them.
What are your musical influences?
Christopher St. John: I’ve spent a lot of time marinating in Queen, Steeleye Span, and a capalla chant. But I saw my first musical, Oliver!, when I was around five years old. I was amazed by it. It became a family singalong thing. We bought the record and got to know all the songs.
Scott King: I grew up in Kentucky in the 1960’s in a very musical family. Church music, folk music, Broadway and country. In my teen years I moved beyond my family’s favorite music into classical, jazz and opera. In high school and college, I explored Broadway and some opera. Later I developed a passion for early music, especially Renaissance. I took a college course on harmony taught by Professor Easley Blackwood at Chicago that had a huge influence on my thinking about music. I taught myself to compose through score study.
So is it true that one of you is gay, and one of you is straight?
Christopher St. John: Yes. But more importantly, we’re both Eagle Scouts.
Scott King: I made it to Junior Assistant Scoutmaster.
Where is Gayland right now?
Scott King: We’re workshopping it in New York. Going through cycles of working with actors and then revising. Our goal is Broadway.
Christopher St. John: If you want to find out where the laughs are, you have to get in front of an audience. Otherwise, you can easily be just kidding yourself.
Scott King: We just had a table read at 224 Studios in Manhattan on February 15th. We’ve got a great team together, and the script and score are pretty tight. Now it’s it’s about shaping instead of surgery.