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Aphroditus: A Musical

APHRODITUS: A MUSICAL is a genderqueer one-act rock opera by Steph Bennion, which takes a look at gender identity and transgender politics in modern society compared to older traditions. Songs and a script have been developed for a show around 50-60 minutes running time. APHRODITUS has been written with fringe performances in mind.

Demo versions of some songs (with iffy singing) are available on Soundcloud (private link).

"...She is the Moon and that men sacrifice to her in women’s dress, women in men’s, because she is held to be both male and female...”

Thanks for reading! If you're interested in collaborating or producing this show, contact details are here... Steph.

Picture of Steph Aphroditus

APHRODITUS: A MUSICAL

APHRODITUS is a genderqueer one-act rock opera, which examines the divisive attitudes towards gender identity in modern society compared to those of pre-Christian traditions. Songs and a script have been developed for a show around 50-60 minutes running time, to be performed by a single central actor/singer - the character "Quiltbag" - backed by a band. APHRODITUS has been written with fringe performances in mind.

The setting is the ruins of ancient Amathus, in the ruined temple of Aphroditus (a dual-gendered version of Aphrodite, later known as Hermaphroditus). Between songs, monologues consider gender politics. The narrator Quiltbag, who identifies as non-binary, reflects on the tragic story that brought them to that place and on their fight for trans liberation in the modern western world.

Demo recordings for all songs are available on Soundcloud (private link). Apologies for my attempt at singing!

SYNOPSIS

Transgender radicals, taking their lead from 20th-century suffragettes, have come together to fight right-wing evangelist opponents. They draw up plans for an international trans right rally on Cyprus, at the Ancient Greek temple of Aphroditus (“Build It And They Will Come”). Quiltbag, the narrator, tells the tragedy of their ex-lover, lost to transphobic violence. One year on, their band of musicians are at the political festival inaugurated the year before. Quiltbag, who is transgender themselves, relates how they found meaning with a trans liberation protest group (“Look At Me Now”). Amid the ancient ruins, they reflect on old beliefs and how trans liberation fits with wider feminism and the fight against the patriarchal establishment (“When The World Belonged To All”).

Faced with constant abuse and taunts for being trans, Quiltbag looks to their charismatic leader who has a gift for witty retorts (“I Am Rubber, You Are Glue”). They see little prospect for finding their soulmate (“Gendernaut Amour”), but realise they are falling in love with the leader of their protest group (“It Might Be You”).

Quiltbag is struggling with society’s expectations regarding how people should lead their lives (“No More Lies”). During a protest against a right-wing newspaper, the campaigners are attacked by police and thugs leading a counter demonstration, resulting in serious injuries. They lose control during the resulting riot and burn the newspaper offices to the ground (“Read All About It”). The authorities declare the newspaper offices arson to be a strike against democracy. The protesters are branded terrorists. Campaigning has backfired and innocent people are being abused and attacked in the street (“Forgotten Yesterdays”).

The organisers of the Cyprus festival ban them from attending, but the band has come anyway. Quiltbag cannot shake their obsession with Aphroditus (“Song Of Salmakis”) and plead for guidance from the old gods (“Bended Knees”). They start to wonder if the group’s former leader was actually Aphroditus reborn (“King Of Queens”).

Quiltbag reveals that on the eve of the festival the year before, their camp was attacked by vigilantes. Their leader, the object of their affections, was beaten, raped and dragged away, never to be seen again (“Lament Of The Locrians”). The band has returned to the festival to continue the fight for trans liberation, even as anti-trans fascist thugs storm the festival site and set everything ablaze (“Dancing At The Gates Of Hell”). Quiltbag pleas for acceptance (“This Is My World”) and proclaims that trans and non-binary people are here to stay (“Look At Me Now (Reprise)”). The play ends before Quiltbag’s fate is known…

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“There’s also a statue of Venus on Cyprus, that’s bearded, shaped and dressed like a woman, with sceptre and male genitals, and they conceive her as both male and female. Aristophanes calls her Aphroditus, and Laevius says: ‘Worshiping then the nurturing god Venus, whether she is male or female, just as the Moon is a nurturing goddess.’ In his ‘Atthis’, Philochorus too states that she is the Moon and that men sacrifice to her in women’s dress, women in men’s, because she is held to be both male and female.”

[Macrobius (c. 400s CE), Saturnalia 3.8.2]

* * *

STAGE SET

A single stage setting is used throughout, representing an outside scene amid the remains of an Ancient Greek temple, the ruins of Amathus in Cyprus. Quiltbag’s rock band is there to play a fringe gig at a protest rally. The stage set and backdrop should illustrate a festival site with band stage equipment and camping gear. The temple can be portrayed using a suitable backdrop and props of broken stone pillars either side of the stage. A cauldron and ingredients are required for scene 4.

Quiltbag is the only performer singing and speaking. Ideally, the rock band will be on stage for real to perform the numbers: minimum requirements are electric guitar, keyboards or piano, bass guitar and drums. Many songs include ‘choir’ sounds, which could be replicated either by a synthesiser or even a small choir, a ghostly ‘Greek chorus’.

If performed as a solo show without a band (i.e. using recorded backing tracks), projection effects or the backdrop could show the festival site.

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All content (c) Steph Bennion, WyrdStar and Danse Macabre 2007-2022.

Top of Page Page last updated: 15 April 2022