For hardworking immigrants with Hollywood hopes, the Frida Kahlo Theater is a space to learn and dream

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Nestled in the depths of a neighborhood of narrow streets and densely packed apartments, the Frida Kahlo Theater in the Westlake area is a lighthouse for many aspiring artists. But these aren’t the typical wide-eyed youth who come from Brooklyn, NY, or Peoria, Ill. The pain is being discovered on the streets of Hollywood.

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They are Latino immigrants. Most are adults. Their ranks include dishwashers, daily wage workers, factory workers, cooks, business owners and retirees. But neither his age nor profession prevents him from taking his role seriously when he is in class or on stage.

Throughout their lives, many people have been told that acting is not a real career, that they do not conform to the beauty of Hollywood, that they can be unemployed and homeless. But these candidates know that many successful actors started out in Frida Kahlo. So every Tuesday afternoon, they leave behind the baggage of family doubts and other burdens for one of the few places in LA where their inner artist can emerge.

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As they step into the theatre, students are greeted by painted images of Kahlo and her husband, the great muralist and painter Diego Rivera. Once they take their seats, Rubén Amavizca-Mura, artistic director of the Synergia Theater Group – the non-profit organization that was founded by four Latino immigrants and operates the theater – begins the workshop in Spanish.

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Synergia Theater Group last June celebrated 35 years of existence and 28 years of working at the Frida Kahlo Theatre. But “the important thing is not how many years we have, but knowing that hundreds of students have managed to fulfill their dreams on our stage, despite the poor comments received for the love of the arts,” says Amaviska-Mursa. Said, who immigrated to Los Angeles from Mexicali, Mexico in 1985 and took over as artistic director in 1993.

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Ruben Amaviska-Mursa, director of the Frida Kahlo Theatre, sits under a mural of Frida Kahlo by muralist Ricardo Soltero at the theater
(James Carbone)

Many friends and family members, including her mother, tried to persuade Amaviska-Murasa to become a doctor. In Mexico and other Latin American countries, many consider acting not a serious career, but a hobby that is only freely indulged by wealthy libertarians.

Fearless, he decided to study at the School of Theater Arts at the National Institute of Fine Arts in Mexico City, and then at the theater department of Los Angeles City College.

“It is important to remove the stigma that many people have about this career,” he said.

A year after becoming artistic director of the Synergia Theater Group, Amavizka-Mursa founded the Frida Kahlo Theater at 2332 West Fourth St. The 28-by-22-foot platform has become a vibrant community cultural space. The stage, lighting and 99 seats were set up with the help of a grant, out-of-pocket contributions from the community itself and even the director.

To begin their training, aspiring artists learn to project their voices by giving short performances in front of their peers and through modulation exercises. At first, this may sound ridiculous to some students, but Amavizka-Mursa points out that it’s an essential part of learning to get comfortable and let loose on stage. The theater group charges $120 for a 36-hour class, while Los Angeles’ Westside charges $2,000 for roughly the same amount of time.

Although its classes are relatively inexpensive, Synergia requires a strong imagination and a deep emotional commitment. In a recent session, schoolgirl Emma Valdez was instructed to play a poem, “En Paz” (In Peace), by Amado Nervo, as a joyful tribute to a life before, as if she were a suicide. I was reading the note.

Standing on a white chair, Valdez stretched his arms to his sides, offered his last prayer, then made a motion to wrap the noose around his neck, swallowed hard and jumped off the chair. Her four-minute performance brought tears to Valdez’s eyes as she was able to feel herself in her character’s skin.

“Theatre is my therapy, where I’m going to have beautiful time with friends and live magical hours where everything can happen,” said Valdez, 48, who immigrated to the United States when she Was 7 years old.

Teatro Frida Kahlo is celebrating 28 years of age in Los Angeles
The Frida Kahlo Theater in Los Angeles is celebrating 28 years as a theater company that focuses on Spanish-speaking performances.
(James Carbone)

As a child, she had dreams of an acting career but left them to become a fashion designer. In the summer of 2019, Valdez decided to take acting workshops at the Frida Kahlo Theater. So far he has acted in two plays, “Soldaderas” and “La mala noche” and a short film, “Monarcas”.

“When I was about 17,” said the South LA resident, “some classmates told me that my accent wouldn’t allow me to be successful on stage, but I found that Spanish also has theater and an accent wasn’t counterproductive. “

In a typical year, the company stages eight productions with a total of 150 performances. Synergia has also started production in California as well as Texas and northern Mexico, including Mexicali, Tijuana, Ensenada and Ciudad Juárez. Some of the company’s works are also produced in Puerto Rico, Spain, Belgium and Latvia. About 90% of its audience are Spanish speakers.

By offering classes and staged productions, the organization furthers its mission of promoting theater within the Latino community of Westlake, a highly transitory, predominantly low-income population of immigrants and first-generation American citizens whose The families come mostly from Guatemala, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Mexico. ,

“People have asked me, ‘Why are the workshops in Spanish?’ I tell them that there are not only those who like to listen to the language, but there are some who need to learn in their own language as well,” Amaviska-Murasa said.

The author and author emphasize that the organization does not discriminate against anyone who comes looking for classes – Asian Americans, African Americans, and other non-Latinos have attended – but because of the gap in the workshops in Spanish. It is necessary to have opportunities in the industry for Latinos, especially immigrants. According to the 2022 UCLA Hollywood Diversity Report released last March, the Latino community, which represents 18.7% of the US population, is “significantly under-represented” across all major film categories surveyed. The report indicates that Latinos represent only 5.6% of screenwriters, 7.1% of protagonists, 7.1% of directors and 7.7% of all actors.

Hollywood Diversity Report 2022

“We are immigrants who are here and we want to be a part of all sectors, including entertainment,” Amaviska-Murasa said. "We cannot be ignored. We cannot remain invisible."

Several prominent figures have emerged from the small theatre, among them actors Ludo Vica, Luis Chávez and Tonantzin Carmelo; Producer, writer and actor Emanuele Loarca; and filmmaker Victoria Alonso.

Lorca's 25-year career has included nearly 80 plays as an actor, 10 as a producer, and he has appeared in shows such as "The Sopranos," "Tales of Titans," "Hacks" and "Sex and the City." have appeared in. His devout Christian family, who immigrated from Guatemala to New Jersey at the age of 12, discouraged his theatrical aspirations. So at the age of 16, he secretly began taking acting classes and paying for them by working at a grocery company, a gas station, and as a waiter. He also worked with nonprofits staging educational theater aimed at helping homeless people, addicts, and students.

"To my family, theater was the devil, who would turn me away from family and God," he said.

At the age of 22, Lorca moved to Los Angeles to continue studying acting and found the Frida Kahlo Theater, where he still presents his works.

"There was no money, but talent, willpower and a desire to learn," he recalled. "I am grateful for the theater and what I learned there, for being a place that gives people like me the opportunity to follow their dreams."

Daniel Edward Mora, who also got his start at the Frida Kahlo Theater, had better luck than Lorca when he told his family that he wanted to be an actor. Originally from Los Angeles and raised in San Diego, he was about to graduate from San Diego State University with a degree in business administration when he was told he needed to take art classes. This is how Mora fell in love with the theater.

The 61-year-old actor laughed, "When you're bitten by the transition to acting, you don't heal." “Only my grandmother looked at me like a weirdo when I told her that I was going to devote myself to acting without completing my degree. Ironically, she spent hours watching soap operas in front of the TV.”

Mora moved to Los Angeles to try his luck in the film business and met Amavizka-Mursa in 1991 at the Bilingual Foundation for Art Drama, in which the two were performing. After becoming friends, Amavizca-Mura invited Mora to play the role of Diego Rivera in the play "Frida Kahlo".

"Frida Kahlo theater is a gem," said Mora, whose 80 film and TV credits include "The Bridge," "Fresh Off the Boat," "Philly Brown," "The Mentalist," "Avenge the Crows" and The Voice. work is involved. For the 2017 hit Disney animated feature "Coco".

"There are more castings for Latino. Characters are no longer just 'bad'...


Source: www.latimes.com

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