It isn’t easy to attain a strong profile in Twin Cities theater, which is awash in top-shelf talent. Aditi Kapil prevails, a presence of consequence.
Kapil is a true triple threat: an accomplished actor, playwright, and director. Most notably, her script Love Person was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. A seasoned veteran and core fixture at Mixed Blood Theatre, her latest triumph is landing the assignment to direct Lynn Nottage’s Pulitzer-winning drama Ruined at Mixed Blood. Previous directing stints include Israel Horowitz’s The Primary English Class, Sujata Bhatt’s Queen of the Remote Control, and Messy Utopia, which she co-authored with Seema Sueko, Velina Hasu-Houston, Janet Allard, and Naomi Iizuka.
Ruined, which opens this Friday, October 16, conveys the plight of abused women. Depicting life in a Congo brothel, prostitutes struggle day to day, subsisting amid raging warfare. The production stars Regina Marie Williams, supported by Bruce Young, Aimee Bryant, Celeste Jones, Ericka Ratcliff, Gavin Lawrence, Irungu Mutu, Namir Smallwood, Payton Woodson, Paul Meshejian, and Eric Mayson. Aditi Kapil took time out of a hectic schedule to do an e-mail interview.
What drew you to this script?
It’s a beautifully crafted piece, layered, powerful, surprising. It also represents [something] you don’t see that often in contemporary theater, large cast epic story-telling that takes you on a journey emotionally and intellectually. More than that, what drew me personally, as an immigrant who only recently became an “American” [of Bulgarian and Indian descent] is that the characters and stories come from a place and internal logic that is not of the western world. Lynn Nottage found the wisdom to step outside her own world view, and with honesty and absence of judgment tell a story about the DRC [Democratic Republic of the Congo], a place that is incredibly hard for us as outsiders to understand. And as is the case in the best plays, she succeeds in revealing humanity, the common ground we all share, rather than placing that other world at a safe distance.
What did you look for in casting the production?
I love to work with actors who bring their artistry and intelligence into the rehearsal room every day. This is a difficult play and requires a cast that does its homework, understands the story we are telling and carries their share of it, knows when to give a moment to a fellow actor and when to take a moment and own it. They’re amazing, all of them. Watching them grow into a company is a joy. And the caliber of their talent and commitment allows me to sit back and be the story teller, the shaper, shifting a tone here, stretching a metaphor there. It’s a dream cast.
How did you come to be associated with Mixed Blood Theatre?
Jack Reuler cast me in a summer stock show right out of college and I soon became one of his regular actors.
How pleased are you with that association?
It’s a wonderful thing to have an artistic home. It liberates you to create and follow your trajectory as an artist knowing that there’s a theater that is interested and committed to your voice and your stories long-term.
You direct, act, write. With strong experience in each. How does your hand at one artform inform, influence your hand at another?
They’re all part of the whole: I like to make theater, in whatever capacity. I like to tell stories on stage to a live audience. That’s the magic for me, that moment of connection, a gathering of people thinking about something, feeling something together. It’s powerful stuff, it’s necessary. It binds the fabric of society. Whether I wrote the story or directed it or created the journey of a character in it, but the goal is always the same: making theater.
What’s next on your plate?
I’m going to be a playwright for a bit, taking my current play-in-process, [NEA award-winner] Agnes Under the Big Top, to the Lark Play Development Center in New York for a week-long workshop.