Aditi Brennan Kapil on her multilingual ‘Love Person’
Aditi Brennan Kapil
The Minneapolis playwright’s “Love Person,” performed in English, American Sign Language, and Sanskrit, is running through June 23 at Company One, which is giving the play its Boston premiere. A few seasons ago, “Love Person” got a “rolling world premiere” from the National New Play Network, receiving productions at three theaters across the country.
Q. Let’s talk about the title. Why “Love Person”?
A. There is a scene in the play where one of the characters, Maggie, is trying to translate the word “lovers” to her partner, in ASL. Because there is no direct translation, it breaks down into “love person,” and the action is something like a hug around a heart.
Q. Much of this play revolves around a deaf character. Do you have a personal connection to the deaf community?
A. I’ve worked a fair amount with deaf performers, actually. My first job was voicing for a deaf theater. I also have a few friends in the deaf community.
Q. How did that influence your idea for the play?
A. At the same time I was working at this theater, I was researching Sanskrit for a fiction project I was working on. My ASL isn’t very good, but I had a basic feel for it. But there was something about the two languages that struck me as similar. There’s something about the way that ASL is undiluted and blunt; it doesn’t have a whole lot of synonyms. Sanskrit, similarly, remains undiluted and sort of pure. They were similar to my mind and similarly poetic. I had this thought: What if I wrote something about a deaf woman falling in love?
Q. How is sound used in the play?
A. It’s a play that works with sound, with absence of sound, and with quality of sound. The play derives a lot of meaning from that. One of my favorite things about seeing this in production is the silence — and the noise for that matter. [The character] Vic’s world is incredibly noisy, and the worlds of Maggie and Free are almost completely silent. The deaf audience could care less, but with the hearing audience, there’s always this interesting stir in the first few moments in their realizing that a scene is going to be done entirely in ASL. It dawns on them that this is about to be really quiet. After that, though, the story takes over and you go with that. It’s kind of fabulous.
Q. Did two of the characters being gay influence how they communicate in the play?
A. Not necessarily. Part of the reason I created two gay women characters is because as a woman playwright, there really aren’t enough female roles, so I figured, Why not? Let’s make them lesbians! It’s interesting because I didn’t write this to be about the gay experience, or even the deaf experience. This is about relationships, and love, and connecting, and communicating. It just happens to have a diverse cast of characters. And why would we assume that we would write about a heterosexual because I’m writing about a relationship?
Q. How is the production of this play different from the ones you’ve worked on previously?
A. It’s a hard, hard play to do. It blows my mind that this many people have [produced] it. For one thing, it requires the collaboration with a deaf community. You need an incredibly fluent-level actor for Maggie or [the play] won’t be bilingual. You need a sign master to translate for everything that needs to be in ASL. That’s already adding a week to your rehearsal time. You need to figure out how to cue both deaf and hearing performers. The great thing about it, though, is once you do it, you’ve been through this immense thing together.
Q. Does the use of different languages represent something larger?
A. The language and the disconnect show how important it is to really stick with someone or there’s going to be issues. The language was more of a metaphor for relationships, and love and communication. The fact that I get to use ASL and English and make it a bilingual show allows me to expand that metaphor and make it unavoidable. The languages act as a lens for how important it really is to connect, or that relationship will falter and fray.
Interview was condensed and edited. Erica Thompson can be reached at erica.thompson@