Telling Tales

Aditi Brennan Kapil has written the play of her life—literally

Aditi Brennan Kapil swoops into Common Roots Café in Minneapolis and apologizes for being late: Today, the oldest of her three daughters decided to strongly protest school attendance. But mention her proverbial fourth child, the play Agnes Under the Big Top: A Tall Tale, and you will learn what has really been testing the St. Paul writer’s patience. ¶ Kapil has been working on the play, off and on, for years. It was funded by the Distinguished New Play Development Project of the National Endowment for the Arts and work-shopped as far away as Bulgaria. This month, it’s finally appearing at Mixed Blood Theater, where Kapil is a resident artist. “Agnes has had a lot of attention paid to it, and for a while that gave me this sense of being stared at,” she says. “I couldn’t make the scenes work.”

Fueling her anxiety is the personal nature of the play, which traces the intersecting lives of several immigrants to America, including the ringmaster of a Bulgarian circus and his wife, an escapee from an Indian call center. Kapil herself is half-Bulgarian, half-Indian. She was born in Bulgaria, raised in Sweden, and immigrated to the United States in the 1990s to attend Macalester College. “As a playwright, you always feel like it’s your naked ass on stage,” she declares. “Now I also feel this intense responsibility to do right by the stories of my family.”

Agnes will premiere simultaneously at Mixed Blood and the renowned Long Wharf Theatre in Connecticut. Mixed Blood, with its emphasis on multiculturalism, is a natural home for Agnes—and for Kapil, who befriended the theater’s artistic director (and fellow Mac grad) Jack Reuler, right out of college in 1994. He commissioned her first play, Deaf Duckling (written in American Sign Language and English) and he put her on stage. “Jack cast me in the Swedish play I Remember Mama,” Kapil recalls. “He liked to surprise people by saying, ‘She’s the only actual Scandinavian in the show!’”

Read more about Aditi Brennan Kapil at


1. She played the mom of Keisha Castle-Hughes in Prince’s banned video for “Cinnamon Girl.”
2. She can sing classic Disney songs in Swedish, even mimicking the mice in Cinderella.
3. She’s crafty, having once crocheted 100 snowflakes to
attach to homemade Christmas cards.
4. She was the host of Northwest Airlines’ independent film channel available in business class.
5. In third grade, she wanted to change her name to Roxanne and, later, Desiree.

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