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Twin Cities.com Pioneer Press
Rafa is a straight man who has cerebral palsy. Andy is a lesbian trying to pass as a man.
These very different characters are "Outside the Circle" of contemporary society in a new play premiering in Minneapolis.
"When these two first meet in a Tijuana bar, they are repulsed by each other," says Andrea Assaf, who wrote the script with Samuel Valdez. "But over the course of the night they become friends and connect through flashbacks and memories."
Assaf, a lesbian, and Valdez, who has cerebral palsy, play Andy and Rafa. Maria Vale rounds out the cast directed by Dora Arreola. These longtime friends spend much of their time doing artistic enterprises in Mexico and the United States, in English and Spanish.
In "Outside the Circle," Andy and Rafa are both searching for a meaningful relationship and grappling with unrequited love, Assaf explains.
"Andy is in love with her best friend, who identifies as straight, and Rafa is in love with a beautiful young woman who is his friend but can't see him as a husband. Some of the flashbacks are intense. There are some between Andy and the women she's loved, and with her 'high fem' mother."
Assaf says the play grew out of an exchange of personal experiences she and Valdez shared on a day off in Baja, Calif. Shaping and rehearsing the play during residencies around the country "has really been a journey," she said.
"I consider myself a progressive person, as Andy does. But I'm approaching 40 and I've never done work on disability issues. I wanted to put that in the play, to look at how people who experience one form of oppression can be oblivious and even offensive to people oppressed in a different context. Andy and Rafa find they need each other. They become conscious of their own assumptions and phobias."
Does the production end happily?
"We hope so," Assaf says with a laugh, hinting that the characters "find a new outlook on life and how they want to approach relationships in the future."
Assaf, who lives in Tampa, Fla., is no stranger to the Twin Cities theater scene. A writer, performer, director and cultural organizer, she was Minneapolis-based Pangea World Theater artist-in-residence for the 2010-11 season, during which she performed her spoken-word poetry series "Eleven Reflections on September."
Valdez, who lives in Tijuana, has directed Latino plays as well as his own work.
"Outside the Circle" was co-commissioned by Pangea World Theater in partnership with El Centro Su Teatro, the Esperanza Peace & Justice Center and National Performance Network. Performances are part of Intermedia Arts' Catalyst Series.
Mary Ann Grossmann can be reached at 651-228-5574.
What: "Outside the Circle" premiere
When: 7:30 p.m. March 15-17
Where: Intermedia Arts, 2822 Lyndale Ave. S., Minneapolis
Admission: $15; $12 students/seniors/groups of 10
Information: 612-871-4444; brownpapertickets.com
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