“Is it a girl? Or a boy? Or a girl? Ok what is this, some sort of American baby game? Are we playing 2 Questions?… It’s one or the other, pick a winner and let go!”
-from Brahman/i: A One-Hijra Stand Up Comedy Show
Auntie eagerly demanded an answer to this question on the day of Brahman/i’s birth, a seemingly natural, innocuous question which should have a seemingly simple answer.
Unless, that is, your child is born “intersex” (a term signifying a spectrum of many conditions), or with a difference in sexual development. These differences can manifest themselves physically (externally and/or internally), hormonaly, chromosomally, or in some combination. The most recent estimates have intersex differences occurring 1 in every 1,500 to 2,000 births, and subtler biological sex variations occurring as frequently as one in every 100 births.
Until very recently, the question parents and doctors have faced with an intersex infant is what gender to assign them (male or female), and what steps to take in order to complete that assignment (surgery, hormone therapy, etc.) This has often led to unfortunate, and sometimes disastrous, situations as an intersex child grows older and into an adult.
Today, there is a increasing movement and understanding among the medical community not to encourage any invasive procedures when choosing a gender for an infant, allowing an easier path for a person to self-assign/change their gender identity as they mature. What one looks like on the outside might not be what one is on the inside. This understanding comes into line with what many intersex persons have advocated for a while. As social mores and medical knowledge evolve, we might see parents and doctors not impose a gender assignment upon infants at all, letting the child, and later the adult, figure out for themselves what gender they are, or if they have a gender at all.
For more, please read Emily Greenhouse’s informative article in The New Yorker, “A New Era For Intersex Rights.”Read more
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.Read more
About Face Theatre and Silk Road Rising
Present the Chicago Premiere of
Brahman/i: A One-Hijra Stand Up Comedy Show
By Aditi Brennan Kapil
Directed by AFT Artistic Director Andrew Volkoff
March 27 – April 27, 2014
About Face Theatre and Silk Road Rising are pleased to present the Chicago premiere of Brahman/i: A One-Hijra Stand Up Comedy Show, by Aditi Brennan Kapil, directed by AFT Artistic Director Andrew Volkoff and featuring Fawzia Mirza in the title role. This bold, comic exploration of cultural and sexual identity plays March 27 – April 27, 2014 at Silk Road Rising, Pierce Hall at the Historic Chicago Temple Building, 77 W. Washington St. in Chicago. Tickets go on sale Monday, February 3, 2014 at www.aboutfacetheatre.com, www.silkroadrising.org or by calling (312) 857-1234 ext. 201. The press opening is Thursday, April 3 at 7:30 pm.
In this provocative play masquerading as a stand-up comedy routine, an Indian intersex person, or “hijra,” explores history, mythology, gender roles… and high school. Brahman/i – funny, cynical, inventive and intensely charismatic – takes on more than a dozen unforgettable characters in a fascinating life story that most of us can barely even begin to imagine.
“We are thrilled to be producing the Chicago premiere of this adventurous new play with our friends at Silk Road Rising,” comments About Face Artistic Director Andrew Volkoff. “The missions of our theaters dovetail seamlessly in this story, offering us a rare opportunity to work together and tell a truly unique story. Using stand up comedy to blow apart preconceptions of gender and cultural identities, Brahman/i truly highlights what it means to be an outsider, embracing who you are, and the power of unconditional love. I’m excited to see Kapil’s creation come to life in Fawzia Mirza’s hands as her considerable comedy skills illuminate the play’s touching, humorous, in-your-face humanity.”
“What an absolute honor it is to be partnering with About Face on this hilariously bold new play,” adds Silk Road Rising Artistic Director Jamil Khoury. “If there is such a thing as ‘stand up decolonization,’ Kapil nails it. Colonized minds, colonized bodies and colonized histories all get roasted in a no holds barred, soul-baring comedy blowout as daringly funny as it is defiantly honest. Brahman/i reminds us that heritage can be a wellspring of courage and creativity – and that the body never lies, it merely asks questions. Whoever knew that intersectionalities could be so much fun?”
Location: Silk Road Rising, Pierce Hall at the Historic Chicago Temple Building, 77 W. Washington St., Chicago.
Press opening: Thursday, April 3 at 7:30 pm
Regular run: Friday, April 4 – Sunday, April 27, 2014
Curtain Times: Thursdays at 7:30 pm; Fridays at 8 pm; Saturdays at 4 pm & 8 pm; Sundays at 4 pm
Tickets: Regular run: $35 adults/$20 students & seniors. Discounts available for groups of 10 or more. Tickets go on sale Monday, February 3, 2014 at www.aboutfacetheatre.com, www.silkroadrising.org or by calling (312) 857-1234 ext. 201.
Fawzia Mirza (Brahman/i), a lawyer-turned-artist-and-educator, was last seen on stage as one of four actors to perform in the solo show White Rabbit/Red Rabbit presented by the MCA and the Chicago Humanities Festival. In 2013, Mirza performed at The Goodman Theatre in Pulitzer Prize winner Quiara Alegria Hudes’ The Happiest Song Plays Last, where she originated the role of Shar. She was also an ensemble member of Christopher Shinn’s world premiere play, Teddy Ferrara. Mirza’s own solo play, Me, My Mom & Sharmila Tagore, premieres this year. Her Silk Road Rising credits include the Jeff Award-winning Scorched, The DNA Trail and Mosque Alert. Mirza has also been featured in several Chicago-made Indie films including Jamie and Jessie Are Not Together, Scrooge & Marley, Promise Land, Silhouettes and The Queen of My Dreams (this short film she co-wrote about her life, Bollywood and identity has screened at over 50 festivals around the world). Her web credits include The Throwaways, Easy Abby, Kiss Her I’m Famous and she writes, produces and stars in her web series Kam Kardashian and her new short series Brown Girl Problems. Mirza’s ‘day job’ has her touring yearlong to universities and military installations performing Sex Signals, the most popular sexual violence prevention show in the world. Photo credit: Joe Mazza at Brave-Lux
About the Playwright:
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.
About the Director:
Andrew Volkoff joined About Face Theatre in 2013 as Artistic Director. He is also a freelance director specializing in new and contemporary works and has directed numerous productions (including several world and regional premieres) in New York, across the U.S. and abroad. Andrew served as Associate Artistic Director of Barrington Stage Company (BSC) in Massachusetts for five years and Genesius Theatre Group in New York City for three years. He also acted as the Co-Artistic Director of the Hangar Theatre Lab for one season. Andrew has worked as the Associate Director on Ella for Rob Ruggiero at Dallas Theatre Center and other regional theatres, is a Drama League Directing Fellow, and an SDC member. Proud to be the first director chosen to participate in the U.S./Bulgaria Directors Exchange Project, Andrew directed the Bulgarian premiere of John Kolvenbach’s Lovesong in Sofia at the Nikolai Binev Theatre, where it is in its second year of repertory. He is currently developing several plays and musicals. He attended Macalester College in St. Paul, MN.
About the Companies:
About Face Theatre creates exceptional, innovative, and adventurous plays to advance the national dialogue on gender and sexual identity, and to challenge and entertain audiences in Chicago, across the country, and around the world.
Silk Road Rising creates live theatre and online videos that tell stories through primarily Asian American and Middle Eastern American lenses. In representing communities that intersect and overlap, we advance a polycultural worldview.Read more
This spring, About Face Theatre is proud to present the Chicago premiere of Aditi Brennan Kapil’s stand-up comedy play, BRAHMAN/I: A ONE-HIJRA STAND-UP COMEDY SHOW, exploring gender, culture, mythology and puberty all through the lens of a hijra, an Indian intersex person.
In the summer, About Face Youth Theatre investigates the intersection of immigration and queer identity in the world premiere of CHECKING BOXES.
Our 2013-14 offerings also feature the OUT FRONT Series, a year-round line-up of workshops and readings of new and developmental works by LGBTQA playwrights, as well as a month-long PRIDE CABARET Music Series in June 2014.
Don’t miss a moment of this groundbreaking programming.
Memberships start at just $110.
The About Face Theatre 2013–14 programming includes:
November 27, 2013 – January 5, 2014
The Return of the Hit Holiday Musical
WE THREE LIZAS
Book and Lyrics by AFT Artistic Associate Scott Bradley
Music & Additional Lyrics by Alan Schmuckler
Directed by AFT Artistic Associate Scott Ferguson
Musical Direction by Aaron Benham
Choreography by AFT Artistic Associate Patrick Andrews
Featuring AFT Artistic Associates Scott Duff and John Francisco with Sharriese Hamilton, Mark David Kaplan, James Nedrud, Danielle Plisz (Jeff Award nominated), Bethany Thomas, Dana Tretta and Andrew Swan.
at Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont Ave., Chicago
Fresh from a concert at Joe’s Pub in New York City with a revamped book and expanded score, last year’s sparkly, queer holiday hit is back… and better than ever! Box maker Conrad Ticklebottom’s life has hit a block. Once, Conrad and his purple box ignited an entire movement in art and design, but now he finds himself alone, forgotten and teetering on ruin. The holidays bring three magical figures to his door – a trio of Liza Minnellis to escort him on a fabulous journey through what-was, what-could-be and what-the-f*?!, redeeming his lost promise and re-inventing a brand-new Conrad Ticklebottom. A quirky holiday musical tale of hope, transformation… and the power of Liza!
The Chicago Premiere of
BRAHMAN/I: A ONE-HIJRA STAND-UP COMEDY SHOW
By Aditi Brennan Kapil
Directed by Collective Artistic Director Andrew Volkoff
This hilarious stand-up comedy routine/play takes on history, mythology, gender roles and high school through the distinct comic lens of Brahman/i, an Indian intersex person – a hijra – tethered by neither gender nor culture, and wildly curious and inventive in their examination of both.
Aditi Brennan Kapil is a writer, actress and director of Bulgarian and Indian descent. She was raised in Sweden and resides in Minneapolis, MN. She performs extensively around the country and her writing has been produced nationally to critical acclaim. Her play Love Person received the 2009 Stavis Playwriting Award, and her play, Agnes Under the Big Top, a tall tale, was selected as a Distinguished New Play Development project by the NEA as administered by Arena Stage. Her most recent work is the “Displaced Hindu Gods Trilogy,” consisting of the plays Brahman/i, The Chronicles of Kalki and Shiv. Aditi is currently working on commissions with Yale Repertory Theatre, La Jolla Playhouse and South Coast Repertory Theatre, and is a resident artist at Mixed Blood Theatre, an artistic associate at Park Square Theatre and a Core Writer at The Playwrights’ Center in Minneapolis.
About Face’s OUT FRONT Series
A year round line-up of workshops and readings of new and developmental works, including:
BILLIE AND BILLY by AFT Artistic Associate Paul Oakley Stovall
7:30PM – Saturday, November 16, 2013 and Sunday, November 17, 2013
American Theatre Company, 1909 West Byron Street, Chicago, Illinois 60613
Tickets are FREE!
The divide between different cultures and ethnicities, between men and women, between straight and gay in America can be a great one. Using only two characters, Paul Oakley Stovall aims to present what seems to be a tiny little drama, set in a small city apartment and the empty flat across the hall. As Billie and Billy form an unexpected bond, their lives begin to intersect in strange ways. The audience is invited to explore with them: our need for companionship, our desire to solve the mysteries of existence and the ways in which we see ourselves in the eyes of others. Billie and Billy explores the similarities ignored, our common needs and desires and the mutual ground we walk upon.
January 25 & 26, 2014
when last we flew by Harrison David Rivers
Inspired by Tony Kushner’s Angels in America and a testament to the power of theatre, when last we flew is a moving and often humorous look at life in small town America from a contemporary teenage perspective. After stealing his local library’s only copy of Angels in America, misfit teenager Paul locks himself in the bathroom to begin reading the landmark play. He soon finds that his life and the lives of those around him in his small Kansas town are about to take flight, and over the course of a seemingly ordinary day, extraordinary things start to happen…
PRIDE CABARET SERIES
To commemorate Pride Month, every weekend in June, About Face Theatre will be hosting a series of cabaret performances celebrating every aspect of the LGBTQA community. From showtunes and standards to comedy to new music to open mics, we’ll be serving up the fun as we invite our community to join with us in making Pride laugh, sing and sparkle!
The World Premiere of
By the About Face Youth Theatre Ensemble
Every two years, About Face’s acclaimed Youth Theatre devises a play as the result of workshops, in depth interviews, theatre training and improvisation. Working with a professional writer and director, they produce plays that tackle challenging topics ranging from anti-gay violence to safe spaces for youth in the LGBTQA community. This year, AFYT turns its attention to an exploration of immigration in the queer community. Building off the work that they created in this summer’s research filled Youth Intensive, they’ll be bringing this brand new play to Chicagoans in July 2014.
About Face Theatre (Andrew Volkoff, Artistic Director) is one of Chicago’s most acclaimed theatre companies, and is a national leader in the development of new work exploring gender and sexual identity. Since its founding by Kyle Hall and Eric Rosen in 1995, the company has premiered more than 48 world premieres by writers and directors who have been recognized with several Tony Awards, The Pulitzer Prize for Drama, The MacArthur Fellowship and dozens of Joseph Jefferson Awards.Read more