Susan Rybin is Frida Kahlo in the play “Kahlo-más allá de Frida”
With all of the excitement of Frida Kahlo’s life still buzzing around from last summer’s exhibition “Frida—Art, Garden, Life” at the NY Botanical Gardens in the Bronx, to the London, Michael Hoppen Gallery’s exhibition ”Frida”–photographer, Ishiuchi Miyako’s record of Frida’s personal belongings that were hidden away by husband Diego Rivera, and only allowed to be photographed in 2011—the public still clamors for more insight into the unique, tragic, and inspiring life of Frida Kahlo.
In May, New Yorkers will be treated to a very special performance of “Kahlo-más allá de Frida”. This is a unique take on Humberto Robles original writing of “Frida Kahlo Viva la Vida” which was a monologue originally performed in Mexico in 2001. The original script went on to be performed around the world in 21 countries including Portugal, Puerto Rico, Uruguay, Spain, France, Argentina, Canada, Peru, England, and Brazil just to name a few.
Susan Rybin as the Frida character in “Kahlo-más allá de Frida”
Rybin Entertainment ran a limited run preview in December at New York’s Producer’s Club to gauge the audience’s response to the show before deciding to pursue further dates. All of the shows were packed to a full house and it was recognized that the general public is truly intrigued by Frida’s life story.
Simultaneously as these shows were gaining attention, producer Meiling Macias-Toro was already in talks with NY’s Repertoria Espanol, also known as the Gramercy Arts Theater to choose some additional dates that would enhance the show because of the stage space limitations at the Producer’s Club. Fortunately everything worked out and we will now be able to view this intensely emotional insight into Frida’s life through these performances.
The shows will be performed Wednesday, May 11th at 7PM, Sunday, May 15th at 6:30PM, and Monday May 16th at 11AM. Further dates will hopefully be announced across the country as Washington D.C. has already expressed interest in the show as well.
Originally written in Spanish
The play was originally written in Spanish and will continue to be performed as such at the NY dates, but do not let that prevent any of you non Spanish speaking fans of Frida from attending a show as there will also be live audio headset translation being provided as well.
At some future date, there may be an English translated version of the play, but I have to admit that even with my limited knowledge of Spanish and no audio translation, I was fortunate to see a rehearsal of this play and I feel that the joys and pains of Frida are so intensely articulated in her native language.
Actress, Susan Rybin playing Frida Kahlo makes you feel the raw, intense emotion of her character.
A huge fan of Frida Kahlo
I am such a huge fan of Frida Kahlo and was fortunate to be able to interview actress, Susan Rybin last week and discuss the making of the play and her thoughts on Frida. Susan is a NY native who has been acting since the young age of 7.
Today she has 2 lovely teen-age children who are highly involved in Rybin Entertainment in their own unique ways. We had a chance to discuss the development of the play.
Director, Walter Ventosilla’s inspiration from Frida’s painting, “The Two Fridas” for the separate characters of Frida and Kahlo
Uniquely engaging the audience
Susan shared that when she and director, Walter Ventosilla first met to discuss the play, he wanted to find a way to uniquely engage the audience and was inspired by Frida’s painting “The Two Fridas”.
Original writer, Robles scripted the story as a straight monologue on Frida’s life. Walter felt that if he could separate the sections of the play to be individual characters with their different emotional aspects, the story could be so much more engaging. He developed 3 characters that would all be played by Susan. Frida would be the younger, vibrant persona who wasn’t yet worn down by the excrutiating physical pains of her earlier life’s injuries.
She would be the feisty woman who could motivate and take on Diego’s larger than life personality. Kahlo would be the character portrayed in a wheelchair who was quite frustrated with her life, whom would have her leg amputated and have to wear an artificial leg. She would be the one to express extreme physical suffering.
And the last and I think most intriguing character would be “La Caterina” –death .
Actress, Susan Rybin and Director, Walter Ventosilla adjusting the mask of La Caterina—“Baldie Death”.
Rehearsal and time with Susan
I asked Susan about all of these characters and how she managed to separate them and make them unique.
To my surprise, Susan was most comfortable at the show’s outset expressing the Kahlo character. Upon watching a rehearsal, I was amazed at how easily she could transition into this tortured character in her wheelchair. Susan was the most challenged by the Death character. She originally questioned—How does a human portray this role?
Does death feel?
We discussed Frida’s continuous dance with death. At 6, she suffered from polio and with no cure back then as there is today, she still managed to survive. Then at 18 she suffered a horrific streetcar accident that impaled her through her pelvic region as well as breaking many bones. By all accounts in that day and age, she should have died, but she survived. And once again—she had cheated death.
Frida’s Mexican culture has always had a respect and understanding that death is a part of life and we should not fear it. We should embrace it, but also live life to the fullest in the meantime. Susan felt that death was always at Frida’s doorstep but willing to let her live just a little longer, be a bit tormented in her life, and walk side by side with her through her life. “Baldie Death” as Frida called her, was her best friend.
Frida’s artwork always expresses an amount of hurt, pain, and death as well.
Susan as the character of Kahlo in the play
Next- We discussed as Frida calls it, “the second accident in her life—Diego Rivera”.