At Mixed Blood, identity in three parts

Three plays at Mixed Blood Theatre address gender, heritage, super heroes and finding your place in the world.

Lipica Shah, right, playing Shiv, and Andrew Guilarte, left, playing her father, rehearse at the Mixed Blood Theatre on Tuesday afternoon.

Chelsea Gortmaker

Lipica Shah, right, playing Shiv, and Andrew Guilarte, left, playing her father, rehearse at the Mixed Blood Theatre on Tuesday afternoon. “Shiv” is one part of the trilogy of plays, “Displaced Hindu Gods,” based on the idea of displacing three Hindu deities into the contemporary Western world.

Callie Sacarelos

Playwright Aditi Brennan Kapil has so much to say about her Indian heritage that she can’t fit it into just one play.

So she wrote three.

“Originally I tried to write one play, because why would you even think about writing three plays?” she said. “That’s a crazy thought.”

Each play’s unique format will stand alone on Wednesday, Thursday or Friday at the Mixed Blood Theatre. They will also appear together as “Displaced Hindu Gods,” a marathon performance on Saturdays and Sundays during the show’s run.

“I’m always after that uncommon experience once you get to the theater,” she said.

 “Brahman/i: A One-Hijra Stand-Up Comedy Show” is a one-person comedy routine about ownership of self, the mic and the audience.

Kapil described the second play, “The Chronicles of Kalki,” as a “comic book-infused girl gang thriller” that looks at Indian mythology in the modern world.

The final play, “Shiv,” throws post-colonialism into a fantasy world of destruction and rebirth.

“All of my plays tend toward the ambitious because I like big ideas,” she said.

Peter Christian Hansen, a local actor who is also in two of the plays, said commissioning three new plays at the same time is ambitious.

“But it’s exciting because it shows that Mixed Blood and the people involved are not afraid to take a chance,” he said.

Andrew Guilarte, a New York-based actor who plays a father character in “Shiv” and a cop in “Kalki,” said he liked the project because it sounded like an interesting challenge.

 “I’m always looking to do something that stretches me and scares me so that I stay sharp and improve,” he said. “This is exactly it.”

The actors prepared the plays in four weeks, sometimes rehearsing while Kapil rewrote parts of the script.

Kapil said she wants to create a theater experience about complicated things that will make her audience think.

The inspiration for “Kalki” came from her teenage years and her love of comic books as a way to reinvent herself.

“There’s that moment in puberty where you just want to believe that deep inside this cringing humiliated body there’s a superhero,” she said.

Kapil said “Brahman/i” is about “the exhilarating moment of being yourself.” She compared the play to standup comedian Eddie Izzard, who identifies as a transvestite.

“He’s up on the stage in heels and a dress, and he owns that crowd,” she said. “If there was a cross-dresser on the street, people would probably throw stuff at him.”

Guilarte said being an immigrant from Trinidad enabled him to identify with his character in “Shiv.”

“He came here for a better life for his daughter. But he ends up running into walls … and his work is not appreciated,” Guilarte said.

Guilarte said he had a thick accent when he first came to the U.S., which he had to change in order to fit in.

“A lot of work in New York is limiting because of the color of my skin,” he said. “Unfortunately, that’s just the way it is. It’s getting better… slowly.”

Kapil said a younger and more diverse demographic would be the most receptive to “Hindu Gods.”

“I would love to have the college audience in the house because they’ll get it and they’ll teach the rest of the audience how to get it,” she said.

Theater is not what’s on stage, she said, but rather that moment of what happens between the stage and the audience.

“Art allows us to talk about things other than the really tangible stuff,” she said. “Things that are of the soul.”


What: “Displaced Hindu Gods”

When: Oct. 5-27, times vary

Where: Mixed Blood Theatre, 1501 South Fourth Street, Minneapolis

Cost: $20, or free under Mixed Blood’s Radical Hospitality program