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Astrid Hadad is a well-known Mexican actress and performance artist. She was born in February 26, 1957, Chetumal, Quintana Roo, Mexico. She attended the National Autonomous University of Mexico, originally planning to major in political science and journalism but then changing to theatre. After appearing in a number of shows, she came to the fore in 1985 in Donna Giovanni, an all-female adaptation of Mozart's opera, which was directed by Jesusa Rodríguez and became a great hit in Europe. It closed after its 500th performance, in the Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico City.
Parallel to these activities, she created two shows of her own (Nostalgia Arrabalera and Del Rancho a la Ciudad). This led to her producing and starring in the tragicomic musical La Occisa or Luz, Levántate y Lucha based on the life of Mexican singer Lucha Reyes (1904-1944), a very famous ranchera singer. Lucha Reyes is the one who started what Hadad calls "canto bravío" in Mexico. Hadad states in an interview in 1997 "traditionally women would sing the campirana song or bucolic songs with soft voices, with very high pitch. Women did not use the same force in singing compared to a man and Lucha (Reyes) is the one who initiates this type of ranchera singing in a bravía way among women. Because of that she changed the vernacular song". Another influences in the production of Hadad are the teatro de carpa (Tent theater, similar to street theater), and teatro de revista, two forms of the so-called género chico or “light” theater developed in Mexico from the late 1880s to the 1930s, and specially the "rumbera" films from the Golden Age of Mexican cinema (40s - 60s) whose plots were set primarily in cabarets. The principal stars were the actresses and dancers known as "Rumberas". Ms. Hadad says her act also has its origins in the German cabaret of Bertold Brecht and Kurt Weill, “the political cabaret that was a new way of experiencing life” In the 1920s and 30’s, Mexico City's clubs were also filled with performers who skewered the powerful in their acts. But no one since has stuffed all of Mexican political and cultural history into a dress and laced it up with a feminist attitude quite like Ms. Hadad. In a way, one could say that Hadad’s wild cabaret is a little like a Frida Kahlo painting come to life. Like Frida, she draws from the rich motherlode of images offered up by Mexican history and culture: Catholic saints, Aztec and Mayan iconography, revolutionary heroes, exuberant flowers and plants, campesino and indigenous folk art, the golden era of Mexican cinema and so on.
But if Frida Kahlo, through no fault of her own, has been reduced, in some quarters, to a mouse pad, Hadad has absorbed this inheritance of a uniquely Mexican and female surrealism and created her own surrealist cabaret that pulses with campy humour and irony.
Out of the production La Occisa or Luz, Levántate y Lucha, came Hadad's collaboration with the musical group that has accompanied her since, Los Tarzanes. Together, they have created various performances (La Mujer Ladrina, Apocalipsis Ranchero, La Mujer del Golfo, etc.). In her Heavy Nopal show, Astrid makes use of iconic references, not just as scenery (the cactus, the rock, the pyramid, the tequila bottle), but also on her own body, becoming not only the stage, but also an altar. From the calla lilies to the extremely complex surprise-multi-purpose outfits to the innumerable ornaments, "rebozos", virgins of Guadalupe, guns, and common places in the essence of Mexico. Someone once described Astrid as a "walking museum of popular cultures."
Pecadora is a comic show that has women as a central theme, using Mary Magdalene, sinner par excellence, as the leading thread. It is a show that aims at rescuing the passion from the dangers of extinction where it can be currently found. In it, Astrid retakes the spirit of the rumberas, the soul of the rancheras and the historical body of everything Mexican. Of course, all this seasoned with a loud wardrobe, where hearts, gigantic eyes, turquoise-blue dresses and an old lantern, among others, play before the eyes of the audience.
In Sol y Sombra, taking as an excuse the novel Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Astrid presents a show where, setting the forces of evil against those of goodness, she leads us to reflect on (through her sense of humor) our inner ghosts as well as on the joys of life. This show boasts a very colorful wardrobe and scenery, in which the use of "papel picado" is an important stage element. ("Papel picado" is a thin colored paper with different shapes cut out, used as a decoration on holidays in Mexico.) As for this show it requires an arch-shaped structure to hang from as part of the scenery and the show, it is somewhat bulky to carry.
The last performance of the show called "Oh-diosas", (which is a play on words meaning something like "bitchies / Oh - goddesses") was at the end of the month of July 2006 in Mexico City, in one of the boroughs called Colonia Condesa.
Other shows by Hadad include Corazón sangrante and La multimamada. “Corazon Sangrante” is a 40s-style bolero and rumba that Hadad wrote of the Aztec king Montezuma whose “heart was bathed in chile” after he was betrayed by Cortez. “Where can I go, where can I put heart, so it won’t hurt, won’t bleed…” she croons as she dances across the stage in a velvet gown adorned with golden pyramids, an outfit she describes as representing the syncretic nature (European and Indigenous) of Mexican culture. If this sounds like a history lesson, it is, but it’s hysterically funny. For her farewell number, she prances around the stage in a big sombrero with a moving rubber hand sticking up from the center. “Yes, this hand is for self-pleasure,” she quips, “It comes in three speeds.” The band picks up the tempo and Hadad reaches inside the brim to grab confetti, which she tosses into the air.
Astrid has also starred in TV soaps and in the film Sólo con tu pareja.
- Cisneros, Sandra (2010). "El Pleito". In Norma E. Cantú. Moctezuma's Table: Rolando Briseño's Mexican and Chicano Tablescapes. Texas A&M University Press. p. 125.
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- Tim Weiner. “A Diva Outraged and Outrageous”. The New York Times Sunday Styles March 4, 2001. http://mundomundo.com/astrid_press.html
- Jeanne Carstensen, 'The Mexican cabaret singer is much more than the second coming of Frida Kahlo' SF Gate. Oct 10 2002 . http://mundomundo.com/astrid_press.html
- Cruz Barcenas, Arturo. “De prevalecer el poder femenino nos hubiera ido mejor: Astrid Hadad.” La Jornada. 1 April 2005. 6 March 2006 <http://www.jornada.unam.mx/ 2005/04/01/a10n1esp.Php>.
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- Taylor, Diana (2003). Holy Terrors: Latin American Women Perform. Duke University Press. p. 191.
- Taylor, Diana (2003). Holy Terrors: Latin American Women Perform. Duke University Press. p. 192.
- (Spanish) Official Website