Latinx Playwright Explores Mystery of Frida Kahlo’s Controversial Death


Frida Kahlo is hailed as a feminist icon and one of the greatest painters of all time but much of her life is still shrouded in mystery and playwright Odalys Nanin’s play is a never-before-seen look at the final week of Kahlo’s life. The award-winning Frida: Stroke of Passion premieres Feb. 7 in Boyle Heights, a neighborhood in Los Angeles, for six shows at the Casa 0101 Theater starring Nanin as the famed Mexican artist.

“It’s a revealing look into the last week of Frida Kahlo’s life and the mysterious cover up of who or what killed her,” Nanin explained to The Pride. It explores Kahlo’s mental, emotional and physical condition during that time and looks at her little-known love affairs with prominent women including Mexican singer Chavela Vargas, Mexican actress María Félix, French entertainer/activist Josephine Baker, Italian photographer/ political activist Tina Modotti and her alleged last lover, Cuban spy Teresa Proenza. It also looks at her love for Diego Rivera and her work — she painted 44 self-portraits in her lifetime including the famous “Autorretrato con monos.”

“But most of all I revealed the cover-up behind her death. Did Frida Kahlo die of a “pulmonary embolism,” as her death certificate claims? We will never know for certain because no autopsy was allowed and she was quickly cremated,” Nanin wrote in The Advocate. Kahlo died at age 47 on July 13, 1954, and a few days before she wrote in her diary, “I hope the exit is joyful — and I hope never to return.” This, along with her bout with bronchopneumonia and the loss of her right leg the previous year (it had been amputated at the knee) left her very frail and fuels the belief by some, including Nanin, that she may have died by suicide.

According to Nanin, she was unable to paint like before and couldn’t finish her last commission, “My Face Surrounded by a Sunflower,” which she destroyed before allegedly taking her own life. The play explores her passions and fears leading up to her final moments and how she allegedly left this world with the same fervor and volition she exhibited during her short but memorable lifetime.

“What initiated the spark of passion in me to write about Frida Kahlo was because as a lesbian Latinx I relate to her courage and fearless determination to stand up to injustice and to be the voice of the voiceless through her art and political activities. And above it all, it was the fact that no one had dared to explore the last week of her life,”  Nanin wrote in The Advocate.

The show runs February 7–9 and 14–16 at 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, and at 2 p.m. on Sundays at the Casa 0101 Theater with tickets starting at $25. When as by The Pride what guests can expect from the show, Nanin said: “To discover the true spirit of Frida Kahlo who had a passion for painting, living and a passion for loving to the max.”

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