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Viva La Vida!

Originally Posted: July 26, 2006

Rene Pereyra (Diego Rivera) and Mercedes Ruehl (Frida Kahlo). Photo by
David Rogers

Bay Street Theatre continues its 2006 Target Mainstage season with the World Premiere of VIVA LA VIDA!, by Diane Shaffer and directed by Susana Tubert. Tony® and Oscar-award winning Mercedes Ruehl plays Frida Kahlo, Rene Pereyra plays Diego Rivera and Liza Colón-Zayas plays Rosita. The show will run until August 6.

"VIVA LA VIDA! focuses on key events in the last eighteen months in the life of Frida Kahlo," said playwright Diane Shaffer. "It explores how she transcended overwhelming maladies to make art, proclaim political outrage and to love ferociously those fortunate enough to witness her final days. I am thrilled to have the premiere of VIVA LA VIDA! at Bay Street Theatre."

Diane Shaffer's play Sacrilege, published by Samuel French and included in the Smith & Krause anthology: Women Playwrights: Best Plays of 1995, was on Broadway in 1995. Sacrilege is currently on its way to becoming a feature film directed by Ellen Burstyn. Her other published work includes Solace At Twilight, a collection of one-act plays. She has acted in numerous regional and Off-Off Broadway productions and appeared in two Robert Altman films Popeye and Health. She also had a successful career with her "girl group," The Steinettes, who topped the Billboard charts with their classic disco hit, One Night In Bangkok.

Director Susana Tubert's extensive directing experience includes the recent Off-Broadway premiere of Bad Girls, by Joyce Carol Oates, the world premiere of the hit musical Four Guys Named Jose and Una Mujer Named Maria!, co-produced by Enrique Iglesias and Dasha Epstein, Santa Concepcion at the Joseph Papp Public Theatre, and Real Women Have Curves, at the Venevision International Theatre. Over the past 17 years she has developed and directed new plays in New York and at regional theatres, including: Lincoln Center Institute, Women's Project and Productions, Rattlestick Theatre, Hartford Stage, Sundance Institute, South Coast Rep, Kennedy Center and more. Ms. Tubert directed, wrote and produced the short film, Gypsy Girl (New York International Latino Film Festival) and guest directed on the daytime drama, The Guiding Light. She co-conceived, El Mozote, a modern ballet with Pascal Rioult Dance Theatre Co. which premiered at the Guggenhim Museum. She was a recipient of the Theatre Communications Group/National Endowment for the Arts Director Fellowship. Tubert is also the Executive Director of the inaugural 2007 Latino International Theater Festival of New York, a two-week celebration showcasing the groundbreaking work by Latino and Iberian theatre companies from New York, Latin America and Spain.

Liza Colon-Zayas (Rosita the nurse) and Mercedes Ruehl (Frida Kahlo).
Photo by David Rogers

Mercedes Ruehl came to big screen prominence in Jonathan Demme's Married to the Mob. She earned an Academy Award, Golden Globe, L.A. and Chicago Film Critics Society Awards for her role in The Fisher King. She received a Tony®, Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle and the Helen Hayes Awards for her role in Neil Simon's Lost In Yonkers, later reprising her role in the film. Other Broadway credits include, The Goat or Who Is Sylvia (Outer Critics Circle Award, Tony nomination), The Rose Tattoo, Shadowbox (Tony nomination) and I'm Not Rappaport, as well as Off-Broadway's Woman Before A Glass (Obie Award), Other Peoples' Money (Clarence Derwent Award) The Marriage of Bette and Boo (Obie Award), Coming of Age In Soho, The Vagina Monologues and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf at the Guthrie Theatre. Among her television credits are the Emmy Award winning Indictment:The McMartin Trial, HBO's Gia, Hallmark's The Lost Child, Court T.V.'s Guilt By Association, and Showtime's North Shore Fish, For Lifetime T.V. she starred in last year's Mom At Sixteen and this year's A Girl Like Me.

"I am certainly not alone among actresses to be drawn to portray the fabulous and inscrutable Frida Kahlo. Vulnerable and fierce, haughty and down to earth, funny and infinitely suffering--she is a flame at the center of all these paradoxes and we are the moths; what a challenge!" said actress Mercedes Ruehl.

Rene Pereyra's prolific career, both in his native Mexico and in the international circuits, includes acting, directing, teaching and acting coaching. Pereyra has been seen in many movies including Traffic, Old Gringo, Paulina, Deep Crimson, Romero, Miracles, Salvador and more. In 2006 he was in the television series The Unit. Other television credits include: One Man's War, Murder in Three Acts, Acapulco H.E.A.T. and The Burning Season - The Chico Mendes Story. Pereyra studied acting and directing for more than ten years at The Lee Strasberg Theatre Institute in New York City. He founded his own school for actors and directors in Mexico City called Actores Del Metodo, the first method acting school in Latin America. At the present time he teaches acting at UCLA.

Liza Colón-Zayas was an original member of the LABryinth Theater Company. She appeared in the New York premiere of Our Lady of 121st Street, and In Arabia We'd All Be Kings, and The Last Days of Judas Iscariot. All three plays were directed by Oscar winner Philip Seymour Hoffman, and written by award-winning playwright Stephen Adly Guirgis. She received a Lucille Lortel Award nomination for her portrayal of Zoila in the New York premiere of Living Out. She toured Europe in a production of A Story Of A Soldier directed by Peter Sellars. Films include United 93, Margaret, Heights, Keane, Freedomland, Unfaithful. Television includes Law & Order, Sex in the City, Hope & Faith and more.

The 2006 Target Mainstage Season will continue with Darwin in Malibu, by Crispin Whittell; directed by Daniel Gerroll August 15 - September 3. This comedy is making its American Premiere at Bay Street Theatre in association with the Falcon Theatre. The cast includes Anna Chlumsky, Richard Easton, Neal Huff and Hal Linden.

The 2006 Target Mainstage Season is made possible in part through a generous underwriting gift by Target Corporation. Bay Street Theatre is a not-for-profit institution, dedicated to presenting new, classic and contemporary works of the highest quality, which challenge as well as entertain, speak to the diversity of the community and champion the human spirit. Bay Street's commitment extends to educational programs for all ages to foster the continued value of theatre as a vital art form for future generations.

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