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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 60 minutes running time. APHRODITUS has been written with fringe performances in mind.

Demo versions of all 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


The opening song relates how transgender rights radicals, taking their lead from 20th-century suffragettes, have come together to fight right-wing evangelist opponents. They have drawn up plans for an international trans right rally on Cyprus, at the Ancient Greek temple of Aphroditus (“Build It And They Will Come”).

The setting for the play is the ruins of ancient Amathus, in the crumbling temple of Aphroditus (a dual-gendered version of the Greek Goddess Aphrodite, later known as Hermaphroditus). One year on, it is the eve of the second gathering on Cyprus. The narrator Quiltbag, who identifies as non-binary, tells the tragedy of their ex-lover, lost to transphobic violence. Their band of musicians have returned to the political festival they inaugurated the year before. Quiltbag, who is transgender themselves, relates how they personally 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”).

Quiltbag relates how their life changed forever during the preceding year. Faced with constant abuse and taunts for being trans, they looked to their charismatic leader, who had a gift for shrugging off adversary with witty retorts (“I Am Rubber, You Are Glue”). At the time, Quiltbag saw little prospect for finding their soulmate (“Gendernaut Amour”), but realised they were falling in love with the leader of their protest group (“It Might Be You”). They have long struggled with society’s expectations regarding how people should lead their lives (“No More Lies”).

Looking back at recent events, they relate how during a protest against a right-wing newspaper, their campaigning group was 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 banned them from attending the second festival, but the band has come anyway. Quiltbag cannot shake their own 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…

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

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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]

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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.

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.

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