A Statement from Aditi Brennan Kapil about Brahman/i
When I first conceived the Displaced Hindu Gods Trilogy- 3 plays riffing on the 3 deities of the Hindu Trinity of Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva- I was looking for my way into the Indian part of my heritage, as a woman, as a person of mixed race, as an immigrant twice over, as a person who lives amidst an amazing diaspora that flies in the face of any attempt at stereotyping. I believe that all immigrants engage in an act of re-mythologizing, we need stories to understand ourselves, both individually and in the context of society. So my Displaced Hindu Gods are a creative departure from traditional depictions. In The Chronicles of Kalki, the final avatar of Vishnu (traditionally male) is a badass girl facing down the demons of high school and puberty. The Shiva character in Shiv is a woman caught between past and present and the necessary act of destruction that leads to re-birth.
In taking on Brahma the Creator, I was drawn to the over-arching principle of Brahman, the cosmic spirit, genderless, omnipotent, omniscient, described as ‘neti neti” which translates roughly as “not this, not this”. Some of the most powerful Hindu deities are depicted as being of both genders, and why wouldn’t god be both male and female? Not this, not that. Our society habitually categorizes, by religion, by nationality, by color, and in our first few seconds of life- by gender. More and more, these categories and assumptions grow obsolete, but our brains resist, sorting and grouping is how we understand the world. For me, a lifetime of resisting categorization, as an Indian/Bulgarian/Swedish-American speaking multiple languages, code switching from country to country, being of ambiguous color and cultural background, emigrating, immigrating, experimenting, becoming, led to the creation of Brahman/i in “Brahman/i, a one-hijra stand-up comedy show,” a person who doesn’t and won’t fit into any single category, ever. And who owns that space and power, that spotlight and that microphone. This play is by/about/for people who never fit in, and who no longer care. And the power that comes with that moment of self-creation. -Aditi Brennan Kapil
Aditi Brennan Kapil is a playwright, actress, and director of Bulgarian and Indian descent, raised in Sweden, and currently residing in Minneapolis. Her play Love Person, a four-part love story has been produced to critical acclaim across the country in Sanskrit, ASL and English. It was developed during a Many Voices residency at the Playwrights’ Center, work-shopped at the Lark Play Development Center in New York, and selected for reading at the National New Play Network (NNPN) conference in 2006. Love Person was produced in a NNPN rolling world premiere at Mixed Blood Theatre in Minneapolis, Marin Theater in San Francisco and Phoenix Theatre in Indianapolis during the 2007-2008 season. In 2008-2009, it was produced at Live Girls! Theatre in Seattle, Alley Repertory Theatre in Boise and Victory Gardens Theater in Chicago. Love Person received the Stavis Playwriting Award in 2009. Kapil’s play Agnes Under Big Top, a tall tale was selected as a 2009 Distinguished New Play Development Project by the NEA New Play Development Program hosted by Arena Stage, and was developed by the Lark Play Development Center, Mixed Blood Theatre, InterAct Theatre in Philadelphia, the Playwrights’ Center in Minneapolis and the Rhodope International Theater Laboratory in Bulgaria. Agnes Under Big Top premiered at Mixed Blood Theatre and Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven, CT in 2011, and Borderlands Theater in Tucson, AZ in 2012 in a NNPN rolling world premiere. Brahman/i: A One-Hijra Stand Up Comedy Show is a part of Kapil’s trilogy, Displaced Hindu Gods, and was commissioned by Mixed Blood, premiering there in October 2013. Kapil is currently working on a play loosely based on the character of Imogen in Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, commissioned by Yale Repertory Theatre. She is a graduate of Macalester College with a BA in English and Dramatic Arts.