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Aditi Brennan Kapil: Skewing the Lens

Skewing the Lens from Works Progress on Vimeo.

“It’s hard sometimes to think outside your own very complicated, very personal, very busy, life-is-overwhelming lens, but when you go to the theater, what I want is… that moment where all of the sudden your world explodes from that lens into this huge connection to the world.” —ADITI BRENNAN KAPIL

We each have a unique lens that we bring to the world around us. That lens is continually being shaped by who we are and what we’ve experienced, as well as our assumptions about others. It’s easy to get so caught up in our own lives that our focus becomes narrow. What are we missing?

Playwright, actor and director Aditi Brennan Kapil wants to expand our lens on the world, skewing it enough to reveal new connections and meanings – for her audience, herself and her collaborators. She does this by creating characters and stories that confound expectations and shift perspectives.

For Aditi, theater is first and foremost a live and interactive medium. It’s something we have to experience together, and as such, requires a kind of creative symbiosis between artist and audience. As makers of live experiences of a different sort, we’re inspired by Aditi’s respect for her audience. Her plays ask a lot and she’s not afraid to take people in unexpected directions, believing that audiences can handle more complex themes and stories than many would give them credit for.

This approach seems to come, in part, because Aditi’s art-making is rooted in several “artistic homes” where she’s been able to develop her unique voice as a playwright, as well as her connection to an artistic community. One of her homes is Mixed Blood Theater, where she’s premiered her two previous full-length plays, Love Person (2008) and Agnes Under the Big Top, a tall tale (2011). This is where we shot Skewing the Lens with Aditi over the course of several weeks in October.

Mixed Blood is in the midst of its own experiment with trusting its audience. Their new Radical Hospitality program makes tickets to all of Mixed Blood’s productions free of charge to anyone and everyone. This egalitarian approach has removed the financial barrier that many face, and has transformed Mixed Blood’s audience and the live theater experience for all who attend or perform on that stage.  It seems fitting that Aditi’s latest work, a trilogy based around the Hindu Trinity, will premiere in a house where the audience truly reflects the diverse and multi-faceted community around it.

What experiences with theater or other art forms have skewed your lens on the world? Do you think about your own personal lens when you are making art? How can the live experience of theater encourage us to explore our assumptions and perspectives together?

Shanai Matteson and Colin Kloecker are Collaborative Directors of Works Progress, an artist-led public design studio. Works Progress creates collaborative art and design projects that inspire, inform and connect; catalyzing relationships across creative and cultural boundaries; and providing new platforms for public engagement. You can find them on Twitter at @works_progress.

Topic: Arts & Culture

December 2012