Kahlo, who lived from 1907 to 1954, was a painter known for her self-portraits. Her art explored issues of postcolonialism, gender, class, identity and race in Mexican culture. “Frida Libre” will delve deeper into Kahlo’s art, sexuality, passion for politics, success and the complex relationship she had with fellow Mexican artist Diego Rivera.
“It’s very much based in the study of her diaries, as opposed to only the anecdotes that surround her, but those are in there too,” Martinez said. “It talks a lot about the woman who painted the paintings, which is a little different than the woman who appears in the paintings.”
“In the paintings, she appears so strong,” Martinez added. “But in the diaries, or in the last book written by Olga Campos, a therapist who worked with her during the last two years, she was lonely and sad.”
When Kahlo was younger and suffered from polio, she claimed to have “met Death.” Later when she suffered from a tragic accident, she claimed that “Death dances around my bed.” From there, “Frida Libre” takes the angle of Kahlo having a conversation with Death. She flipped the original script somewhat, adding in more femininity and a robust voice for Kahlo.
“The most difficult part is getting a script, when you love and admire someone so much, with all of the life and experiences she went through, and putting it into a monologue,” Martinez said. “I’ve grown with her. It’s been both beautiful and painful to interpret her but very strengthening.”
Canadian-Colombian Martinez actually moved to Mexico briefly in order to prepare and research for the show. Once there, Martinez frequented La Casa Azul which was once Kahlo’s childhood home and is now a museum featuring her works. It was important for her to connect to the culture and indulge herself in Kahlo’s interests such as mariachi.
The music of the play is very important to its storytelling. Under the direction of José Reinoso, Martinez’s husband, the play shows how music was there for Kahlo in all of her sadness and solitude. Her favorite songs are also played during the show. The show’s musicians include Julian Gomez on bass, Gustavo Martinez on guitar and Reinoso on piano and guitar.
“It’s a beautiful contradiction, in the way that her life was,” Martinez said.
She explained that feedback suggests “Frida Libre” is very much an emotional rollercoaster where audiences will be laughing, crying and singing along with the actors.
Before and after each show, Martinez will participate in a Q&A with audience members as Kahlo. It has become a tradition for her to do so in the 70 or 80 performances they have done throughout Colombia.
In fact, Producer Angela Casas from Artistry in Motion, encouraged Martinez and Reinoso to bring their play to New York. In Queens Theatre, they’re having to perform some shows in English, which Martinez is glad to do.
“Now we have the show in English and I must say, I like it even more in English,” she said. “I speak Mexican English as Frida. English is so much more richer for drama.”
“The play is truly a celebration of [Kahlo’s] life,” Martinez added.
The performances of “Frida Libre” will take place at the Queens Theatre. The performance schedule is as follows: Thursday, November 16 at 7:30 p.m. in English; Friday, November 17 at 8 p.m. in Spanish; Saturday, November 18 at 2 p.m. in Spanish; Saturday, November 18 at 8 p.m. in English; and Sunday, November 19 at 3 p.m. in English. Queens Theatre is located at 14 United Nations Ave S in Corona. Tickets can be purchased at www.queenstheatre.org/frida-libre.