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About Aditi Kapil

Aditi Brennan Kapil identifies as a playwright, director, and actress whose home is in the twin cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, but whose unusual background has left deep impressions on her as an artist.  “I’m an immigrant twice over,” she notes, with a father from India, and a mother from Bulgaria, the couple emigrated to Sweden, which is where Kapil spent her childhood. As a result, “there’s an international element to my writing, always,” she says.  Identity, language, and culture crop up as recurring motifs in her work, which she contextualizes by noting that, for theatre, “it’s fascinating when disparate elements meet and friction develops. I feel like walking friction because of my background.”

Now a naturalized American citizen, she finds that her complex cultural heritage winds its way into her work in interesting ways, especially when it comes to investigations of language and identity. “In my playwriting especially, I’m interested in how people communicate with each other. On a global level, I’m interested in how the languages we speak affect the way we appear to others.” InLove Person, a play comprised of English, Sanskrit, and American Sign Language, we see these concerns in sharp relief. “Because I find language to be such a compelling lens into the human condition,” she says, her plays are “very layered and complex.”

Kapil is fearless in the engagement she requests from audience members around this work. “Theater,” she argues, “happens in that moment when the actor communicates with the audience. Everything else is in service to that moment. When I write for theater, I use all of it—everything I’ve got.” But, she allows, her work isn’t always easy. “I am blown away by the number of theatres who take on my work. It’s not easy to cast, it’s not easy to fulfill all the technical requirements, but they’re complex stories that I feel reflect the world that we live in. I also feel that theatre audiences can sustain a more challenging aesthetic than we sometimes think they can. I think that we can bring in a deep dense soundscape, and have multiple languages, and have the experience of that be fulfilling and exciting.”

Kapil’s first play, The Deaf Duckling, was a bilingual production written in American Sign Language and English, commissioned by Mixed Blood Theatre for young audiences, and featuring a Deaf performer. Later, Kapil used this experience, and the desire to provide more meaty roles for talented Deaf actors, as one of the points of inspiration for Love Person, which has been produced to critical acclaim around the country. The development process for Love Person includes workshops and residencies with the Playwrights Center and Mixed Blood in Minneapolis, the Lark Play Development Center in New York, and a series of three rolling world premieres through the National New Play Network in 2007-2008.  The play received the Stavis Playwriting Award in 2009, and was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

– by Ilana Brownstein, Spring 2012

ADITI KAPIL’S AWARDS & HONORS

• 2009: Stavis Playwriting Award for Love Person

• 2010-11: McKnight Fellowship in Playwriting

• National New Play Network selection: Love Person

• TCG/ITI Travel Grant to develop Agnes Under the Big Top

• NEA Distinguished New Play Development Project

• Arena Stage/NEA New Play Institute Fellow

• Arena Stage production of Agnes Under the Big Top

• Resident Artist: Mixed Blood Theatre, Minneapolis

• CORE Writer: Playwrights’ Center, Minneapolis

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