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Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Imagine U opens ‘Frida Libre’ celebrating youth ambitions, Latine culture

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Photo courtesy of Justin Barbin
Frida (Weinberg junior Isadora Coco Gonzalez) and Alex (Communication senior Matheus Barbee) share a moment in the recently opened “Frida Libre” production.

The Josephine Louis Theater resembled a children’s storybook coming to life when Northwestern theater group Imagine U opened “Frida Libre” on Friday. 

The show, which draws inspiration from the life of Mexican painter Frida Kahlo, aims to bring Mexican and Latine culture to life through the Spanish language, according to show director Ismael Lara Jr. 

The cast includes six NU undergraduate students, who all identify as Latine. The music instrumentation is woven with trumpets and marimbas to celebrate Mexican heritage and traditions. The script and songs feature Spanish phrases and dialogue.

“What I love about the show … is that we will say things in Spanish, and there’s no translation,” said Weinberg junior Isadora Coco Gonzalez, one of two actors playing Frida in the show. “But by context, you understand what we’re saying. It doesn’t diminish the important cultural value of language and speaking Spanish onstage.”

The show runs over three weekends between Oct. 20 to Nov. 5. During that run, a partnership between NU and Evanston/Skokie School District 65 guarantees every third grader in the district — more than 800 total — will watch the play. 

Communication senior Matheus Barbee, who portrays a young Frida’s childhood friend Alex, said he’s excited that “Frida Libre” might be some third graders’ first introduction to theater.

“Getting to do it for kids is just a reminder of how special and exciting it is to share music and storytelling with children who are so open to learning about the world,” he said. “Theater is such a powerful form for them to take in new information about what the world can be, what they can strive to be in their own lives.”

The show caters to a young audience centering themes of imagination, bravery and transformation, as told through an emerging friendship between two young characters: Frida and Alex. 

Unlike Alex’s reserved persona, Frida embodies fearlessness and ambition, and dreams of one day becoming a doctor. They both attend a STEM school in Mexico City, where they are assigned as partners on a science project about metamorphosis. 

But in the process, Frida and Alex explore new sides to each other.

“As they begin working together, they begin sharing their largest imaginations with one another,” Lara said. “That allows for this beautiful collision and transformation where they see themselves in one another.” 

By the end of the show, their friendship inspires the pair to achieve their dreams. 

After daydreaming of becoming a luchador wrestler, Alex decides to become a doctor to save lives. Imitating Kahlo’s actual life, Frida dedicates herself to painting and sharing her art with the world.

“I really hope that people gather from this play that no matter what hardships you’re experiencing or what barriers might be in your way, if you are fearless, you will find the inner strength and bravery and you can move through that situation,” Lara said.

Email: [email protected] 

Twitter: @Jerrwu

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