This afternoon, Ovid—by way of the Afghan War, the Juventas New Music Ensemble, and a pair of North Carolina School of the Arts grads—comes to the North Carolina General Assembly. The occasion is a special performance of Leo Hurley and Charles Osborne’s new opera, The Body Politic
, commissioned by the Boston-based Juventas New Music Ensemble
, in the atrium of the General Assembly Building.
The goal is simple and profound: to discuss transgender issues through artistic means in hopes that a few legislators listen.
Ovid’s tale of Iphis may very well be one of the first major transgender myths. In it, Iphis, who is born a girl, is disguised as a boy from birth, lest she be killed by her father. At age thirteen, Iphis is betrothed to Ianthe, and the two fall in love. Iphis’s mother prays to the gods, who then turn Iphis into a boy.
The Body Politic
adapts this two-thousand-year-old myth, which had long intrigued Leo Hurley. With Osborne’s help, he began transforming it for modern times, finding intriguing parallels between Ovid’s myth and the Afghan practice of bacha posh
, in which a family without a son picks a daughter to raise as a boy, as well as between Afghan and American cultures. In it, Iphis, a trans man, flees Taliban-era Kabul and relocates to North Carolina.
“Our story,” Osborne explains, “is about Iphis … trying to feel at home in both America and his own body. And in doing so, he finds that subtle prejudices of gender, race, and sexuality that litter The American Dream are littered in his own past.”
Originally, Hurley and Osborne had planned to take the opera to New York after its world premiere in Boston in early May. But in the wake of the passage of HB 2, they decided it was more important to perform it here in North Carolina, at the General Assembly
“North Carolina has helped both of us become the artists we are today,” says Osborne. “House Bill 2 does not reflect the state we know, the state where we were unafraid to be ourselves. We want to send that message to Governor McCrory and the state legislature.”
The Body Politic
begins at three p.m. today.