Surprise birthday party

Shhhh ... don’t tell Frida Kahlo, it’s a surpise (oh, wait, she’s dead)

By Jessica Corey-Butler on April 26, 2007

So you want to throw a surprise party?

Take a look at how our friends at the Tacoma Art Museum do it.  They’re throwing a big old “Happy 100th Year, Frida!” bash on Friday, and they’ve pulled out all the stops.

What are they doing that you can take inspiration from?

Have your guests dress up

For Frida’s big (surprise!) day, the organizers are suggesting that visitors dress a la Kahlo, with big skirts, layers of opulence, bright floral prints, and Latino flair.  Boys, this means you, too. Pull out that unibrow and own it.


Don’t forget the music, food and beverages

Alyssa Rosso, TAM PR pro and event enthusiast, tells us that at Frida’s party, “DJ Caesar will be playing some pretty choice Latin music.”  To help revelers get their groove on, there will be a no-host bar offering sangria (with or without hooch) but who are we kidding — Latin beats? You can’t help but shake it, even if you’re somewhat shake-impaired.

Food will be available as well, with El Taco Express setting up a taco cart on the plaza. Are you smelling that yet? It’s a theme developing.

Reinforce your theme

In lieu of the lame “happy birthday to you, you live in a zoo, you smell like a monkey,” song, go for the gusto.  In the case of Frida’s big day, a rousing, museum-wide singing of “Feliz Cumpleaños” will be on order.  Don’t know the words? Sure you do, you just read them, if it’s the version I’m thinking of. But even if it’s more complicated than that, I’ve no doubt the museum staff will lead the song in fine fashion.

And if you’re hungry for more Spanish speaking, how about touring the gallery with a Spanish speaking guide?

Go back to that thing about dancing

Right. So while it’s important to have general ambient music suitable for booty-shaking, how about bringing on some real dancers to watch?  For Frida-fest, hard workers at the Tacoma School of the Arts have been interpreting pieces on view at the museum, and incorporating art and historical knowledge into dance. 

Chris Tran has been choreographing his dances — a solo and a group piece — for the event as part of his senior project.

For the group piece, expect to see him play off of ideas relating to fidelity, infidelity, Frida’s love of deer and doves, and the personal conflicts of Kahlo, to music by Transglobal Underground.

Tran explained that the process of choreographing was difficult, especially since his corps wasn’t the most experienced dancers. “The challenge was coming up with an entire piece for beginning dancers.”

But don’t expect the work to reflect inexperience: these dancers have been working their rumps off.  “He’s really hard on us because he wants us to be our best,” says one of the Fridas in Tran’s piece about Tran as a taskmaster.

Adds a deer: “It’s not about him, it’s about us,” explaining that they want to succeed to be proud of themselves.

And while Tran’s pieces are toward interpretive modern dance, there will be also traditional salsa flavor from student Carlos Sanchez, plus more.

But for Tran’s piece, at least, don’t expect unibrow: dancers will seek to emulate Kahlo’s character, not mock it.

That’s classy.

Make it a fun time for all

In this world of segregation — kids activities, grown up activities — it’s always a great thing when an event is inclusive.  So it goes with Kahlo’s birthday bash. Even though, as a Friday evening event, the gig is geared toward adults as a fun and free date-night option, it’s a kids-allowed date night.  Art activities will keep little (and big) hands busy, while entertainments will delight and inspire. 

One such entertainment, bed racing, gives a quick nod to that portion of Kahlo’s life spent in pain an infirmity.  Between contracting polio as a child and being pierced through her body by a metal pole in a bus accident, Kahlo spent more than her fair share of time bedridden.  So how about riding a bed in her honor?  It’s too late now to be involved in the race itself, but I’m thinking cheering on the sidelines might be just as much fun.

[Tacoma Art Museum, Friday, April 27, 5:30-8:30 p.m., free, 1701 Pacific Ave., Tacoma, 253.272.4258]