Emily Chiu

composer / lyricist / musician

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Apollo

Book/Lyrics by Ellen Johnston
Music by Emily Chiu

Apollo is the story of the rise and fall of an oracle, inspired by two separate oraculular incidents in history: the death of the ancient oracle of Apollo at Delphi, center of the Greek spiritual universe, and the rise of Paul, a German octopus who correctly predicted the winners of the 2010 World Cup and gained worldwide fame as an animal prognosticator.

Our story centers on the relationship between Apollo, an octopus in an aquarium that is on the verge of falling apart, and Keiko, an 88-year old Japanese immigrant who visits him regularly and sells yams from a yam van outside in the parking lot. Their stories run in parallel throughout the show. Keiko and Apollo have a friendship that centers on their daily interspecies exercises, and the yams she slips him on the sly. But when Apollo’s talents for prediction are discovered by his keepers, they encourage the rise of a cult around him to save their aquarium. The commodification of his prophecies brings much-needed funds, but much is lost in return.

Though the relationship between Keiko and Apollo forms the emotional core of the show, it is important to note that is an ensemble piece, with several other important characters whose stories form a part of the telling:

Danny and Lila, Apollo’s keepers, struggle to balance their commitment to animal advocacy with the realities of funding. Ilya, the Ukrainian Janitor, is a former professor of philosophy with a penchant for the Socratic method. Ilya views the rise of the cult of Apollo as a startling parallel to the place he left. He’s also in love with Keiko, and is jealous of the octopus. Zaztro, the fabulous and fabulously wealthy aquarium owner, represents the dark face of capitalism as the cult grows, but even so, you can’t help but want to join in on his ever-present vibe of a Eurotrash rave. Lastly, there’s Fox, a young street kid who loiters around the aquarium and doesn’t feel connected to anyone in the world. She’s a natural-born anarchist without a cause and without a friend, until she meets Keiko.

Apollo is a (tragicomedy / comedy with pathos) with a score as versatile as its cast of characters, ranging from ocean soundscapes built with Whitacre-esque choral textures, to bombastic Ukrainian opera, to Eurotrash electropop, to simple Japanese folk-inspired songs. It’s a show about the dangers of the cult of personality, the inevitability of mortality, and how the community of outsiders in this aquarium comes together despite, or perhaps, because of that fact.

(1 hr 40 min)