Frida, a return
By Julie Cortez, El Hispanic News
For her third resurrection of Frida Kahlo on the page and on the stage, playwright and actress DaÃ±el MalÃ¡n wants to offer her audience more than the passive experience of watching her play and her performance unfold on stage. Show up an hour before the curtain rises on â€œFRIDA, un retablo,â€ and youâ€™ll have the chance to view recreations of scenes from Kahloâ€™s home, read her letters and poetry, learn how to draw a self-portrait, and even try on clothes and makeup inspired by the iconic artist. â€œYou see art, you do art, you become art â€” and then you go see the play,â€ MalÃ¡n says. â€œFor me, itâ€™s really about helping the audience to understand the mind of the artist.â€ MalÃ¡n has spent over a decade immersing herself in the mind of Frida Kahlo. Teatro Milagro staged her first version of â€œFRIDA, un retabloâ€ in 2002, the second in 2005, and the third takes the Miracle stage Jan. 10-19, before hitting the road for a tour that will last through November. â€œEach Frida play has been uniquely different,â€ she says. One reason this incarnation stands apart is the influence of its director, Gabriela Portuguez, a choreographer who has made movement an important part of the story-telling.
In all three versions, Kahlo has been represented by three different actors â€” this time embodying the â€œIconic Frida,â€ the â€œSpirit of Frida,â€ and â€œOld Frida.â€ â€œIâ€™m playing the masculine side of Frida, as a spirit,â€ says MalÃ¡n, who dresses in menâ€™s clothing to look like one of the self-portraits Kahlo painted after she divorced Diego. The playâ€™s exploration of gender goes further by casting a male actor, Ajai Terrazas-Tripathi, as â€œOld Frida.â€ Kahlo had affairs with both men and women and regularly expressed both her femininity and masculinity through fashion. â€œShe wanted to be out there, and be loud and be proud, as people say today,â€ MalÃ¡n says. â€œAs an artist, as a person, as a communist â€” she actually worked really hard not to have labels.â€ MalÃ¡n, too, is difficult to classify. Miracle Theatre co-founder, Teatro Milagro artistic director, playwright, actress â€” the performing arts have dominated MalÃ¡nâ€™s life for decades. But beneath the performer lies the primer coat of a painter. â€œMy upbringing was all in visual arts â€“ ever since I was a little kid.â€ She recalls a childhood spent sitting on the floor of her home, creating crayon copies of her motherâ€™s oil paintings. At age 16 MalÃ¡n scored her first art exhibit at a small gallery, and even sold a few pieces. â€œI shifted over to theater, but Iâ€™ve always had that connection [to the visual arts],â€ MalÃ¡n says. â€œI love painting. I love getting my hands dirty.â€ MalÃ¡n feels a kinship with Kahlo, not merely because of their shared need to express themselves creatively, but because she senses a similar â€œstruggle to be a voice and be known and leave a legacy.â€ The current incarnation of â€œFRIDA, un retabloâ€ has struck a particularly personal chord for MalÃ¡n, as she has begun reassessing her artistic priorities. â€œI feel like I really am looking back on my life, as Iâ€™m playing her looking back on her life,â€ she says. â€œIâ€™ve been very invested in this play for a long time. It feels a little bit like my own swan song.â€ She claims â€œFRIDAâ€ will be her last turn as a touring actor â€” â€œbecause Iâ€™m getting kind of old,â€ she says with a laugh. â€œItâ€™s an exhausting job, going out on the road.â€ MalÃ¡n has yet to decide if sheâ€™s giving up acting altogether, but at a minimum she will be putting that part of her rÃ©sumÃ© on the back burner. â€œItâ€™s time to let the new generation take my spot. Itâ€™s time to be more of an educator and director and artistic director â€“ and a writer.â€ She may be seeking a more narrow focus, but MalÃ¡n says rumors about her retirement and the resulting inquiries about her job at the theatre are way off the mark. â€œAs long as I can stand,â€ she insists, â€œI am still here.â€
See â€œFRIDA, un retabloâ€ at El Centro Milagro, Jan. 10-19. â€œThe Blue House,â€ an interactive art installation created by Susana Espino that explores the life and work of Frida Kahlo, will be open to the public in the centerâ€™s ZÃ³colo space one hour before each show and from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Jan. 19. The exhibit will have a special opening night during the Central Eastside Arts Districtâ€™s â€œFirst Fridayâ€ on Jan. 4, 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. The installation will include works by other local artists, as will an exhibit in the theatre lobby. For more information, visit www.milagro.org or call 503-236-7253.