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John and David: A Painted Musical

John and David (Art by Roussel Acousta)

Writer's Note (James Pecore):

John and David, a fictional love story in musical form, emerged for me as a writer in the past several years of college under the patient guidance of Professor Peter Susser as a potential Thesis in Music. In a new city, I wanted to help build a contemporary love story (“romcom”-style!) with the structure of Biblical myth, informed by the storytelling of contemporary love stories like Skam, Young Royals, and Heartstopper. 


Through the process of our advisory meetings, as well as songwriting and orchestration exercises with The New York Youth Symphony, a love story emerged between The Artist (JOHN) and The Athlete (DAVID). All skills find their origins at the nexus of arts and athleticism; creative freedom and repetitive discipline. The artist (JOHN) wants to capture the beauty of the lover for forever; to set the light in someone’s eyes among the stars. Meanwhile, the athlete (DAVID) wants to maintain their peak performance for as long as possible; to avoid ever being replaced. Caught between them, their true friend (KATE) tries to advocate for both of them while still respecting her own needs. 


Through constant dialogue, patience, and attention to detail—our teams totaling in above 60 Creatives from Columbia and Barnard have worked tirelessly to create the following space onstage and in rehearsal:

  • A place where emotional vulnerability is respected, never stigmatized

  • A place where each character is allowed to be fully well-rounded human beings without the need for villains or easy answers

  • A place where—for when we are all feeling replaceable—our names, our memories, and our common desires to create—these together render us into fully-fleshed-out, three dimensional human beings inherently deserving of love; unique beyond our “replaceable” roles in social hierarchies


What story emerged? A proudly queer love story where the conflict comes not from the difficulties of being “out”, internalized shame, religious stigma, or a fear of death. Rather, a love story where the conflict comes from fighting the pressure to be perfect.


Thank you endlessly to the Creative Team, the Cast, the Production Team, the NOMADS Board, and the Musicians of John and David. Every single line change, analysis of plot structure, and discussion of actor comfort with lines/plot was essential to rewriting this piece. This opportunity to create with you has meant the world. 

Finally, thank you to my boyfriend, Darren. 

After this, could you please teach me how to draw?

Performance History:

Columbia University / Barnard College: NOMADS

Date: 24, 25 March 2023

  • Location: The Glicker Milstein Theatre, New York, NY, USA

  • Creative Artists:

    • Director Daniella Sapone

    • Producer Diana Gregoire

    • Music Directors Steven Charles, Fanglin Yuan, and Heli Sun

    • Choreography by Bailey Stephen

    • Stage Management by Maggie Broyles

  • Production Artists:

    • Sound Design by Olivia Kuan-Romano​

    • Lighting Design by Lillabeth Brodersen

    • Set Design by Vanessa Mendoza

    • Costume Design by Eirene Tomlinson and Michelle Ho

    • Props by Julia Smith

    • Dramaturgy by Charlie Coleman and Ellie Houlihan

  • Musicians: 

    • Violinists Alyssa Kim and Abigail Hart​

    • Violist Susha Edwards

    • Violoncellist Daniel Weitz

    • Bassist Max Mielcarek

    • Pianist Joey O'Neill

    • Drummer / Percussionist Marino Bubba

    • Guitarist Marco-Marcil Montoto

  • Actors:

    • Jalen Ford (JOHN)​

    • Maxwell Seelig (DAVID)

    • Luisa Nahr (KATE)

    • Kevin Chaikelson (NATE)

    • Ava Markhovsky (Soprano / GALATEA)

    • Su Ertekin-Taner (Mezzo / Signora Lucida)

    • Daisy Burckin (Alto / Natalie Clifford)

    • Ella Wickham (Tenor / Margaret Wise Brown)

    • Adam Fromner (Baritone / Paul)

    • Daniel Shneider (Bass / Sebastian)

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