A former Linfield theater major returned to the spotlight, accompanied by a new cast and crew, during Miracle Theatre’s production of “Frida, un retablo” on April 5 in the Marshall Theatre.
The Portland-based Miracle Theatre brought the play, which was a part of the Lacroute Arts Series.
The Miracle Theatre was founded in 1985 by Dañel Malán and her husband Eduardo Gonzalez. In 1989, the two created Teatro Milagro, a bilingual touring program.
“Frida, un retablo” starred Malán, Daniel Moreno, Ajai Terrazas and Linfield alumna Tricia Castñeda-Gonzáles Lee.
Castñeda-Gonzáles Lee graduated from Linfield in 2009 with a degree in theater arts. She has worked with Miracle Theatre for two years and appeared in several productions.
She has also performed with theaters in Portland, such as Defunct Theatre, Willamette Shakespeare, Portland Playhouse and CoHo Productions. She is also a pre-school teacher.
The cast of “Frida, un retablo” was versatile, as only four actors performed the roles of numerous characters. Terrazas, for example, would switch from playing a straight-laced art vendor with a heavy New York accent to an elderly version of Frida within minutes.
Frida Kahlo was born in Mexico City in 1907. She is well known for her self-portraits and notorious eyebrows “taking flight like the wings of a raven,” said Moreno in the opening minutes of the play.
She is one of Mexico’s acclaimed visual artists. She possessed extreme pride for her Mexican heritage and is still commonly referred to as Mexico’s daughter.
However, some may not know the whole story of Frida and the pain and suffering that plagued her every day.
She contracted polio when she was seven. When she was 18 she suffered a tragic accident when a trolley car struck the bus she was riding in. A metal rod struck her abdomen, damaging her spinal column, pelvis, collarbone, right leg and foot, left shoulder and two ribs. Her injuries pained her every day and led to a morphine addiction that endured until her final days.
“I’ll be happy to be alive if I can paint,” said Castñeda-Gonzáles Lee, quoting one of Frida’s famous lines.
Frida also experienced hardship in her social life. Her husband Diego Rivera, played by Moreno, was also a famous artist. She coped with being in his shadow.
Rivera also had a terrible habit of cheating on Frida, most infamously with her sister.
It eventually led to the end of their marriage in 1940, although he remarried less than two months later. Because of the muddled relationship with her husband, Frida was known to have a sting of affairs in her history with both men and women.
The Miracle Theatre shed light on the important, but perhaps unfamiliar, story of Frida’s strife.
The actors from “Frida, un retablo” recounted Frida’s entire interesting, exciting and sad life in a unique way.
Castñeda-Gonzáles Lee played a young Frida in the prime of her career and thrilling life. Terrazas played the role of Frida as an elderly lady. And Malán acted as Frida’s spirit. The three different versions of Frida were frequently on stage at once.
The three characters would speak to each other almost as if they were
voices inside of each others’ heads. It allowed audiences to understand Frida’s complex, conflicting and troubled spirit.
A student from the audience enjoyed learning about how Frida’s struggles influenced her art.
“I definitely think that with everything, your hardships make you who you are, and it really molds you into the person that you become, senior Krystal Galarca said.
“And so she is a living testament of that; you can take a tragedy and make it something wonderful that can really be an inspiration to others.”
The performance was brightened with moments of humor.
At one point, Moreno marched up to a student in the first row, grabbed her hand and partnered her for an impromptu dance number.
The arguing between a young Frida and Rivera conjured laughter, especially with the mention of one of Frida’s famous sayings: “I suffered two grave accidents in my life. One in which a streetcar knocked me down… the other accident is Diego.”
The production was a short and sweet 50 minutes and allowed for no moments of dullness.
The actors interlaced Spanish and English, which is customary for Miracle Theatre, to create an authentic representation of Frida’s life.
The backdrop was beautifully painted with bright colored flowers, skeletons, and of course, self-portraits of Frida.
The Miracle Theatre integrates pressing world issues into its performances. It combines Spanish language and music and features the Latino culture to demonstrate its diversity.
Miracle Theater added to Linfield’s continued efforts to increase diversity and exposure to the fine arts. In doing so, it also handed Linfield an opportunity to learn about the amazing life of Frida and to understand the Latino culture.
“I really enjoyed it. I always enjoy seeing outside artists come in, Galarca said.
“And I really enjoyed the mix of culture that was blended into the work.”
Carrie Skuzeski/Culture editor
Carrie Skuzeski can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.